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Translations lag behind

Updated: 2013-03-25 11:13
By Mei Jia ( China Daily)

Russians had their first translation of Chinese literature before the Chinese got translations of Russian literature. But Chinese literature in Russia lags behind.

The first translation, Chinese Thoughts, is a selection of Chinese fables that was published in St Petersburg in 1772.

Decades after that, playwright Alexander Sumarokov translated from German The Chinese Orphan, a story based on a Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) play about the revenge of an orphan named Zhao.

Since then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, around 200 books were translated into Russian, mostly nonfiction works translated from German and French versions.

Renowned writers like Alexander Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy developed an interest in China. They both thought of visiting the country, but never did. They were readers of Chinese classics, and Tolstoy's bookshelves were lined with Chinese books.

A surge of interest in Chinese literature in Russia came with the honeymoon in relations between the two countries in the 1950s.

"No two countries like us share such close ties, and feel their peoples are like family members," said Liu Wenfei, president of the Chinese Association of Russian Literature Studies.

Russian writers born after the 1980s know less about Chinese literature, contemporary or classic, than their Chinese peers do about Russian literature. But young writers found much in common, such as carrying on literary traditions, during writers' talks in Beijing in 2010.

Russian Debut Prize winner Olga Onoyko said in conversations with Chinese peers that she reads contemporary Chinese literature, but likes the classic Journey to the West more.

According to Liu, Mo Yan attracted renewed interest in Russia after Mo won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2012. Liu's article in a Russian newspaper about Mo was well received.

Liu, who is devoted to introducing and translating Russian literature, is thinking about introducing more contemporary Chinese writers during cultural exchanges.

"The two countries' literature faces similar challenges from Western postmodernist influences, and the distraction of multimedia," Liu said.

Translations lag behind

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