Chenai Luoding Analysis

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The change of the name of Alai’s Chenai Luoding when translated into English may be a starting point for us to think about the positionality of Alai’s writing. According to the Chinese name “Chenai Luoding”, the English name should be “the Dust Has Settled”, which is also the title of the last chapter, telling the death of the protagonist. With the “full stop” of the protagonist and his interesting experiences during his lifetime as a prince of a Tibetan chief, readers could easily understand the name “the dust has settled ” as a Buddhist karmic metaphor for the nihility of the life. However, in the English version, the book’s name is changed as “the Red Poppies”, the plant for making opium, which is also a crucial clue of the novel. Coaxed…show more content…
Whether the floating and unsettled dust, or the psychedelic red poppies, all point to a nihilism toward life. Maybe the only difference is that for the original name, readers would understand it until finishing the homonymic last chapter, but for the translated name, western reader would be attracted and infected by the dazzling and exotic image of red poppies before reading this book, and then start reading with an “Orientalist” reading expectation. From the translators’ perspective, is it an intention to reinforce the metaphor of exoticism and allurement for western readers? Furthermore, when the protagonist’s life comes to an end in the last chapter, obtaining liberation from the phantom of life, will western readers get liberation from the phantom of the “Orientalism” reading of this…show more content…
Genealogically speaking, “Ziming Zhong”, as a word/knowledge, comes into being in the encounter of the “West” and the “East” (the Han) in pre-modern period. Beneath this word lies a translation structure of “West/East”, and for its spread into interior mainland area, I can only imagine it by the second translation structure of “Han/Tibetan”, or specifically speaking, “Civilization/Barbarian”. However, in the novel, the Tibetan chief receives the “Ziming Zhong” directly from the western missionary, and the word “Ziming Zhong” is used naturally in Alai’s writing. Therefore, I think that my “odd feeling” comes from the absence or suspension of the Han as an intermediary of language and knowledge. Furthermore, I would rather argue that it is exactly the contradiction in Alai’s writing that causes this odd feeling to readers like me. Alai writes in Chinese, which means that he has already taken the position of the Chinese language as a translation of the unique encounter between the “West” and the Tibetan. However, this encounter, miniaturized as the subtle “Ziming Zhong”, which involves no Chinese, becomes untellable, or untranslatable for Alai, or intelligible for other “Chinese” readers unless Alai writes it in Chinese. From this example, I would like to argue that, not only our reading, but also Alai’s writing is trapped into hegemony of Chinese in the context of “Chinese literature”
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