RAS Weekender

Tavern at the Radisson Xingguo Hotel

Lost and Found – Notes on Translation

Speaker: Shelly Bryant

English and other Indo-European languages often share linguistic cognates, grammatical similarities, a common set of imagery and a common cultural framework. The Chinese language has completely different linguistic and cultural roots. It’s impossible to translate word-by-word and sometimes even sentences have to be reworked and reordered. Eric Abrahamsen, translator and founder of Paper Republic, a website devoted to Chinese literature in translation, says, compared with translating from one Western language into another, translating from Chinese “takes a certain confidence with the original, and also a surer hand with literary writing in (the translator’s) native language.” Shelly will discuss the sorts of challenges she encounters in translating Chinese literature into English as she seeks to remain true to the author’s voice and style while rendering a translation that makes sense to Western readers.


Shelly Bryant divides her year between Shanghai and Singapore, working as a teacher, writer, researcher, and translator. She translated Sheng Keyi’s works of fiction Northern Girls (2012), Fields of White (2014) and Death Fugue (2014), and numerous fiction and nonfiction titles by other authors. She has also authored seven volumes of poetry and two travel guides. Her poetry has appeared in journals, magazines, and websites around the world. Shelly’s upcoming works include a book on Chinese gardens for the Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai’s Monograph Series (Hong Kong University Press).

Following her talk, Shelly joins RAS Book Club discussion of Death Fugue. Book Club meets 6:30 pm across Xingguo Road from the Radisson at Ginger by the Park. Go to Death Fugue for more information and to register for book discussion OR register now bookevents@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn

RSVP: bookings@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn