This talk presents a new article, due to be published in the next issue of the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. It traces the previously unstudied history of the publication in Shanghai in 1936 of an album of illustrations for Nikolai Gogol’s novel Dead Souls. Lu Xun, the leading writer of modern China, who was then in the last year of his life, was closely involved in this publishing project while engaged in the re-translation of the Russian novel into Chinese via German and Japanese. The person who acquired the rare album and translated its introduction and the captions of the illustrations directly from the Russian was Meng Shihuan, a young collaborator of Lu Xun: a forgotten agent in the dissemination of Russian literature in China. Through a close reading of Lu Xun’s speculations about the previous owner of the Russian book, which Meng had discovered and acquired in a Shanghai bookstore, I will explain my understanding of translation as part of the history of cross-cultural contact and show how attention to new methodologies of book history and intellectual geography can help us rethink these issues.
Mark Gamsa is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at Tel Aviv University, where he teaches modern Chinese history and literature. He is the author of The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature: Three Studies (Brill, 2008) and The Reading of Russian Literature in China: A Moral Example and Manual of Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Beyond his specialization in Russian-Chinese relations, he is interested in the modern history of both these countries; global history; European-Asian contacts and the cultural history of translation. He is now completing a book on the Russian-Chinese encounter in Manchuria, with a focus on the city of Harbin.