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This Is Insane [Insanely Cool]

From the New York Times Arts Blog:

James Joyce’s fiendishly difficult novel “Finnegans Wake” has been called many things since it first began appearing in portions in 1924, including “the most colossal leg-pull in literature,” “the work of a psychopath,” and “the chief ironic epic of our time.”

Now, it can add another designation: best seller in China.

A new translation of the novel has sold out its initial print run of 8,000 since it appeared on Dec. 25, thanks in part to an unusual billboard campaign in major Chinese cities, The Associated Press reported. In Shanghai, where the book was advertised on 16 billboards, sales were second only to a new biography of Deng Xiaoping in the “good books” category, according to the Shanghai News and Publishing Bureau.

The book’s surprise success has drawn some clucking from Chinese observers (how do you say “coffee table trophy” in Mandarin?). But at a panel on Tuesday, the translator, Dai Congrong of Fudan University, who spent nearly 10 years wrestling with Joyce’s runaway sentences and knotty coinages, confessed that even she didn’t fully understand the book. “I would not be faithful to the original intent of the novel if my translation made it easy to comprehend,” she said.



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