A linguistic enclave: Translation and language policies in the early people's Republic of China

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Abstract

After 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made great efforts to control the Chinese language-the way people write, speak, and think. Especially during the Mao years, linguistic conformity was one of the chief means through which the CCP tried to make the articulation of dissent all but impossible. As this article shows, however, the party's actual control of language was not total; niches of greater linguistic diversity remained accessible to readers and writers who made the effort to mediate between the party-state's prescriptions and their individual styles. Comparing three translations of Balzac's (1949) Père Goriot by the Chinese translator Fu Lei from 1946, 1951, and 1963, and reading them against the official "blueprint" of Mao style, the author argues that Fu Lei was able to resist the pressure for conformity and in his translations continued to apply his own, idiosyncratic style. The analysis shows how segments of public writing that were less susceptible to direct intervention, such as translation of foreign literature, enjoyed more autonomy from the party-state's pervasive linguistic controls. Due to its high popularity, translated literature thus provided readers with an important alternative to the omnipresent Mao style and served as a source of inspiration for later generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-494
Number of pages28
JournalModern China
Volume35
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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