5 August 08 | Chad W. Post

Another new issue that’s now available is the August version of Words Without Borders, which is dedicated to “Writings on Psychiatry.”

Ever since Freud, analysts have decamped in August, leaving their patients to fend for themselves till September. To compensate for this absence, we prescribe a healthy dose of writing about psychiatry. On dark Japanese roads and bright Swedish sidewalks, on the couch and off their rockers, writers confront demons and vanquish neuroses. Open these case files and discover the universal language of the talking cure. Francisco Proaño Arandi, Alfred Döblin, Jocelyn Dupré, Duna Ghali, Kanji Hanawa, Klas Östergren, Ana María Shua, and Goli Taraghi diagnose a world of disorders and the doctors who treat them. We trust you’ll find this therapeutic.

In addition to the new stories, there’s also an interview with Peter Esterhazy and an essay by Judith Sollosky entitled “Esterházy Per Se: A Translator’s Ball Game with a Postmodern Author” about translating Celestial Harmonies:

In his monumental work Celestial Harmonies (Magvető Kiadó, 2000; Ecco Books, HarperCollins, 2004), Esterházy, in his impish good humor, has created ample situations to challenge his translator: Can she keep pace with him? Can she turn a cartwheel half as well as he? Can she translate the untranslatable, whether because the two languages are so different by their very nature, or because he has made up a word that suits his text, or has corrupted his text grammatically and lexically on purpose? And then I haven’t mentioned the so-called culture-specific items, often obscure, sometimes made up, and not culture-specific at all!

Finally, there’s also an interesting piece by Eric Abrahamsen about the Duanlie Movement that was started by Chinese author Zhu Wen:

The Duanlie movement began May 1, 1998, when Zhu Wen and Han Dong met up to discuss a plan: a questionnaire they would circulate among fellow writers. By May 5 they had a draft questionnaire; on May 10th they began mailing. In the first three questions, respondents are asked their opinions on literary critics and professors, and the literary giants of the second half of the twentieth century. The response was a flood of bitterness and scorn, as Zhu Wen and Han Dong had anticipated: the questionnaire was not a survey, but a call to action.

As Han himself said in a 1999 interview, Duanlie was not about any particular style of writing, and the works of its members have little in common. Zhu Wen and Wei Hui seem primarily bent on challenging the moral values of Chinese society, writing of easy sex or the emptiness of traditional family connections. Lu Yang is one of the few Chinese experimenters in metafiction, subverting the traditions of the story. Han Dong has retreated into a Zen-like calm, writing quiet stories about countryside and city.

Duanlie: “Split”; “Broken”; “Break.” Any revolutionary movement involves a break, of course, but from what, exactly? At first glance, Duanlie seems aimed at assassinating the old guard—overthrowing the ideologically hidebound, and ushering in a new age of the young bloods. Except that, in China’s political climate, such an overthrow is essentially unthinkable. Asked during a conversation this past June what it would take to effect a real changing of the guard among critics and professors, Zhu Wen answered immediately, with a smile: “The complete overthrow of the Chinese Communist Party.”


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