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The Return of the Native

Otherness in Ha Jin's Waiting and Its Chinese Translation



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The Return of the Native by Yunzi Li
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This dissertation, "The Return of the Native: "otherness" in Ha Jin's Waiting and Its Chinese Translation" by Yunzi, Li, 黎韵孜, was obtained from The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) and is being sold pursuant to Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License. The content of this dissertation has not been altered in any way. We have altered the formatting in order to facilitate the ease of printing and reading of the dissertation. All rights not granted by the above license are retained by the author. Abstract: During the past few decades, the emergence of Chinese American Literature has been a prominent literary and cultural phenomenon, fascinating the reading public and academia alike. A newcomer to the literary scene, Ha Jin is one of the most successful Chinese American writers of the contemporary literary world, reaching his largest audience through his second novel, the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Waiting (1999). Ha Jin is unique among Chinese American writers in that he writes about his first-hand knowledge in English, his second language, which he began to use professionally only in his thirties. He unwinds the thread of reminiscence in a story of love and politics in Waiting, set in Communist China from the 1960s to the 1980s, specifically during the Cultural Revolution. Despite his insider understanding of those turbulent years, Ha Jin has not been tempted to write memoirs. Instead he offers, with the conviction that history is best understood through fiction, his own intimate portrait of an age. The dominant voice of the novel is "Otherness," a voice from a participant observer who sees the sickness of a society calmly yet vividly. The gloom-laden images of China authenticated by Ha Jin, the authoritative informant, serve to strengthen the sense of exotic Otherness for his Western readers. His keen observation of the soul and of our common humanity in turmoil stands for the voice of victimhood. Beyond the sense of contextual otherness, the present thesis also examines the linguistic otherness of Waiting and its translatability. The occurrence of translations from Chinese, as found in the names of characters and places, Chinese-culturespecific terms, idioms, and proverbs, produces an interesting language that, perhaps on an unconscious level, constitutes an aesthetic exoticism for Western readers. This exoticism is what I term "Chineseness." Indeed, the presence of "Chineseness" in Waiting accounts for much of its popularity and critical acclaim. In backtranslating Waiting to Chinese, the translator seems to have the simple enough job of restoring what the author would have written in his native language, but with the predictable result that the aesthetic exoticism richly experienced by the author's primary intended readers is lost or, at the very least, weakened. Therefore, the challenge the translator faces is how to retain the aesthetic exoticism, which is of great importance in the appeal of Ha Jin's writing. The central part of my project attempts to explore, through an examination and analysis of the English original and Jin Liang's translation, how differently the texts of Waiting and Deng Dai are presented, read, and made sense of. The present study aims to arrive at a deeper understanding of how Ha Jin's text and its Chinese translation function as a cross-cultural activity. DOI: 10.5353/th_b4807980
Release date NZ
January 26th, 2017
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Country of Publication
United States
colour illustrations
Open Dissertation Press
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