The Change Of The Name Of Alai 's Chenai Luoding

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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 by a Han military officer, the Tibetan chief starts growing red poppies, which bring him and his feud wealth and strength, whereas, the prosperity suddenly comes to an end because of the conflict for the position of next chief and the arrival of communist army. Comparing the end of the life of protagonist and the end of the Tibetan chief’s rule, we could find the isomorphism between the two names of the book. 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,... ... middle of paper ... ...d 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” or “Sinophone literature”, while the appearance of the tension in Alai’s writing or in our reading experience still provides us with opportunities to debunk the hegemony and start reflection.

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