Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quarterly Essay 52: Found in Translation, by Linda Jaivin

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

This new Quarterly Essay avoids its usual subject of politics and instead concentrates on language, literature and understanding. Jaivin's freewheeling riff on the art of translation is both fascinating and entertaining.

For this latest Quarterly Essay, the series takes a different path to its usual one of politics and current affairs.  Linda Jaivin is well-known to Australian readers as a novelist (Eat Me) and writer. Her other sideline is as a translator. In the early seventies she decided to try East Asian studies ‘for the fun of it and got hooked’.  At this time a degree in Chinese history, language and culture was pretty much thought useless. Then in 1977, China opened its doors to trade and cultural exchange and Jaivin found that the work just rolled in.

For this essay Jaivin concentrates on her passion for language and literature. She lets us in on the cultural subtleties and meanings that are embedded within language. Jaivin’s discussion of evolving contemporary Chinese slang is both fascinating and funny. The essay also examines many authors, their work and what translation into other languages means for them. For anyone who is fascinated by literature and culture, then this Quarterly Essay will bring many rewards.

Quarterly Essay 52: Found in Translation, by Linda Jaivin. Published by Black Inc. ISBN: 9781863956307 RRP: $19.99