Bonnie S. MacDougall

Contemporary Australian translator of Ah Chang

Bonnie S. MacDougall

Bonnie S. McDougall is Visiting Professor of Chinese at the University of Sydney and Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh. She has also taught at Harvard University, the University of Oslo, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the City University of Hong Kong. She has spent long periods in teaching, translating, and researching in China, and has written extensively on modern Chinese literature. Her translations include poetry, fiction, drama, essays, and film scripts by Bei Dao, Ah Cheng, Gu Cheng, Chen Kaige, Wang Anyi, Lu Xun, Mao Zedong, Yu Dafu, He Qifang, Ding Xilin, Xi Xi, Leung Ping-kwan, and Dung Kai-cheung. Recent books include Love-letters and Privacy in Modern China: The Intimate Lives of Lu Xun and Xu Guangping (Oxford University Press, 2002), Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences: Modern Chinese Literature in the Twentieth Century (Chinese University Press, 2003) and Translation Zones in Modern China: Authoritarian Command Versus Gift Exchange (Cambria Press, 2011).

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cover image of the book The King of Trees

The King of Trees

When the three novellas in The King of Trees were published separately in China in the 1980s, “Ah Cheng fever” spread across the country. Never before had a fiction writer dealt with the Cultural Revolution in such Daoist-Confucian terms, discarding Mao-speak, and mixing both traditional and vernacular elements with an aesthetic that emphasized not the hardships and miseries of those years, but the joys of close, meaningful friendships. In The King of Chess, a student’s obsession with finding worthy chess opponents symbolizes his pursuit of the dao; in The King of Children – made into an award-wining film by Chen Kaige, the director of Farewell My Concubine – an educated youth is sent to teach at an impoverished village school where one boy’s devotion to learning is so great he is ready to spend 500 days copying his teacher’s dictionary; and in the title novella a peasant’s innate connection to a giant primeval tree takes a tragic turn when a group of educated youth arrive to clear the mountain forest. The King of Trees is a masterpiece of world literature, full of passion and noble emotions that stir the inner chambers of the heart.

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cover image of the book The Rose Of Time

The Rose Of Time

The Rose of Time: New & Selected Poems presents a glowing selection of poetry by contemporary China’s most celebrated poet, Bei Dao. From his earliest work, Bei Dao developed a wholly original poetic language composed of mysterious and arresting images tuned to a distinctive musical key—a music that has continued to develop in innovative ways through five collections of poetry published by New Directions. Selections from each of these books are included here, as well as a section of new, never-before-published work. This bilingual edition opens with a prefatory note by the poet recalling his past life as a concrete mixer and blacksmith, and closes with a brief biographical note by the editor, Eliot Weinberger. Bei Dao is a seminal poet who has been translated into some thirty languages, and his public admirers have included such international writers as Mahmoud Darwish, Susan Sontag, and Tomas Tranströmer.

in the mirror there is always this moment this moment leads to the door of rebirth the door opens to the sea the rose of time

—Bei Dao

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cover image of the book Old Snow

Old Snow

The three sections of Bei Dao’s affecting new book of poems, Old Snow––“Berlin,” “Oslo,” “Stockholm”––are poignant reminders of the restless and rootless life of the exile. All the poems in the present bilingual volume were written post-Tiananmen Square (June 4, 1989), and the poet refers back to this watershed both overtly (“Not your bodies but your souls/ shall share a common birthday’) and in dense images of loss and betrayal (“old snow comes constantly, new snow comes not at all/ the art of creation is lost”). As renowned China scholar, Jonathan Spence commented on Bei Dao’s earlier book, The August Sleepwalker: “The poet was obliged to create a new poetic idiom that was simultaneously a protective camouflage and an appropriate vehicle for ’unreality.’” Bonnie S. McDougall, whose translations of Bei Dao have been called “a major achievement in themselves,” is Professor of Chinese at the University of Edinburgh. Working with Chinese writer in exile Chen Maiping (now residing in Oslo), she once again renders Bei Dao’s poems into fluid and musical English.

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