Howard Goldblatt, sometimes with his wife and fellow translator Sylvia Li-Chun Lin, have introduced dozens of new authors -- a who's who of contemporary Chinese literature. Their translations include Mo Yan's searing Red Sorghum, Alai's Red Poppies and Wolf Totem, a Longitude best of 2008. We're featuring their latest, a modern translation of Lao She's beloved Rickshaw Boy by Howard, and a second novel by journalist, poet and screenwriter Bi Feiyu, a collaboration of Howard and Sylvia.
Goldblatt said this about the art of translation in a recent interview in the Washington Post: "I am sometimes asked why I translate, since to many it seems a thankless vocation. Why, they ask, don't I write my own novels, since I have lived (they assume) an interesting life and must by now have an idea of what a novel should be? I can only say that not all translators are closet novelists, and that I do not consider translation to be a lesser art -- one that ought to lead to something better. The short, and very personal, answer to the question is: Because I love it. I love to read Chinese; I love to write in English. I love the challenge, the ambiguity, the uncertainty of the enterprise. I love the tension between creativity and fidelity, even the inevitable compromises. And, every once in a while, I find a work so exciting that I'm possessed by the urge to put it into English."