Reconceptualising literary translation in three acts : translingual narrative puzzles in Guo Xiaolu's novels
Lim, Eunice Ying Ci
Date of Issue2017-11-30
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This dissertation will approach three of Guo Xiaolu's novels – A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007), UFO in Her Eyes (2010), and I Am China (2014) – not as separate works, but as three milestone publications to be plotted chronologically along a trajectory of linguistic and literary experimentation. By positioning these novels as palimpsestic representations of the birth, development, and maturation phases of a single performance of translation, this dissertation will argue that these works stage translation through fiction, and in the process creatively reconceptualise the roles of translation and translator in literary works. Although Guo's novels are neither identified as translated works, nor are they ostensibly translations, translation is a central, recurring motif and is carried out across degrees of language competencies and various kinds of blatant and latent censorship regimes. By tracing the continuities and discontinuities across the three novels and relating them extensively to translation theories, I will argue that Guo's performance of translation and play on translation also demonstrate how this reconceptualised method of creative and active translation is a novel literary technique that foregoes easy readability, consistency, and translation equivalence in order to construct translingual narrative puzzles that invite readers to break reading habits and participate in, reassess, and redefine translation as a whole. Common features throughout Guo’s writing – such as the form of the epistolary novel, the multimodality of the narrative, and the thematic exploration of sociopolitical and linguistic censorship through the sexual and literary developments of each novel’s female protagonists – contribute to the performance of a self-reflexive translation through fiction that subverts translation norms, and experiment with the possibility of a new genre of fiction that positions the ongoing process of translation as a literary product, and prompt the reimagination of writing, reading, and translating as open-ended, simultaneous, and collaborative.