The difficulty (and necessity) of translation is concisely described in Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, a close reading of different translations of a single poem from the Tang Dynasty—from a transliteration to Kenneth Rexroth’s loose interpretation. As Octavio Paz writes in the afterword, “Eliot Weinberger’s commentary on the successive translations of Wang Wei’s little poem illustrates, with succinct clarity, not only the evolution of the art of translation in the modern period but at the same time the changes in poetic sensibility.”
Essential reading for anyone interested in translation.
—Perry Link, Complete Review
Weinberger is like an ancient Chinese zither player, tuning lonely in the mountain overlooking the world.
There is a great profusion of Chinese poetry in English, and this fact is significant. It suggests that, despite all the barriers, this poetry does communicate, even urgently, to modern Western readers. Both the difficulty and the urgency are elegantly demonstrated in Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei. Weinberger collates and comments on a series of translations of Wang Wei’s famous poem ‘Deer Park,’ allowing the reader to see how even this brief poem—twenty characters, in four lines—contains endless shades of meaning and implication.