27(1) - 2015

Séparer la fine fleur du chiendent : De la sélection des œuvres littéraires chinoises proposées au grand public francophone

Kevin Henry


Sorting out the wheat from the chaff: On the selection of Chinese literary works for the French-speaking general readership


In 2000 and 2012 respectively Gao Xingjian and Mo Yan were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature; this event enabled Chinese literature to come under the spotlights and reveal all its character, its richness and its complexity. Nonetheless, despite an increasing interest within the general public, we cannot but recognize that translations from the Chinese language still remain a niche market. In this article, we will attempt to show how a few translators have borne the great power and responsibility of selecting all the Chinese literary works to be offered to the French-speaking readership. We will see that, although aesthetic quality has naturally been taken into account, historical and political considerations have also played an important role in that business. The subversive, polemical or critical stance of many translated Chinese authors will therefore be emphasized. We will also investigate why a whole section of the contemporary Chinese literature has not been translated into French. Finally it will be considered whether translators, like some movie directors, have been inclined to making alterations, or whether on the contrary they have helped enhance the readers’ awareness on the Chinese reality.


Chinese literature, mass readership, polysystem theory, translation policy, patronage

April 22, 2015
  27(1) - 2015