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Durham University

Chinese Studies

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Publication details for Dr Binghan Zheng

2015 (co-authored with Xiao, Di) 'Reconstructing a Narrative, Reinterpreting a History: A Case Study of Translating Big Breasts and Wide Hips', Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies 2, pp. 155-173

Author(s) from Durham


Literary translation in the English-speaking community has become the most significant pathway for foreign works to enter the World Literature scene and compete for international recognitions. It is therefore worth examining the role of translation in literary canonisation. This research studies the “Mobel” phenomenon of the 2012 Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, selecting one of Mo’s most representative works – Big Breasts and Wide Hips as the material for case study. By comparing the original and the translated text, it aims to identify both micro translation changes and macro editing choices. Such textual analysis is then combined with references to meta-texts including translator’s preface and interviews, the readers’ response embodied in Nobel Prize documents, literary critiques and media reports. Considering that the controversies around Mo’s winning have fixated on his own political identity and politically sensitive works, the case study will focus on the book’s interpretation of China’s political history. In particular, it will analyse and discuss the portrayal of four main types of historical actors in the book: the perpetrators, the spectators, the heroes and the heirs. Free from the value judgment of translation quality or accuracy, it will eventually demonstrate that translation is a transformative, constructive and performative action deeply grounded in the cultural and social context of the target language.