My review of Tong King Lee’s Experimental Chinese Literature is now online at MCLC. It begins:
“In translating a work, I mistake it for my own,” writes Taiwanese poet Chen Li 陳黎. More and more writers today are making their texts from other texts through translation, cultural borrowing, and, increasingly, through the affordances of new media technologies. Around the world, their readers are likewise searching for new ways of understanding and reading this literature of repetition, translation, and remediation.
Tong King Lee 李忠慶 takes up this challenge in his book Experimental Chinese Literature: Translation, Technology, Poetics. Lee cites Chen Li’s statement in making the case for the inextricable relationship between poetic creation and translation in contemporary Chinese experimental literature (80). Lee defines experimental literature as “works that tap into various technologies in foregrounding their materiality.” For Lee, “experimental literature is . . . characterized by the interplay between the corporeality of the sign . . . and the travel of the text across languages and media” (166). Lee’s concern is thus primarily with works of poetry and contemporary art that highlight their own material qualities—the texture of the page, the shape that writing makes on a flickering screen, or in the space of a park in an open-air exhibition—and that explore textual translations not just between languages but also, importantly, between media.
Lee’s book makes a cogent argument for considering interlingual translation alongside trans-mediation, versioning, and appropriation. Lee collectively calls these practices, which I have elsewhere termed “iterative,” “translational.” Lee extends the concept of the “translational” to cover not just translations into other languages but also the intermedia, interlingual, and intercultural transactions that are involved in the composition of many experimental literary texts (130–31). Lee argues that such translational texts require new translational approaches to reading (97).
Read the full review here.