Carlos Rojas is the translator of Yan Lianke's The Four Books (2015), which is shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. His other translations include Yan Lianke's Lenin's Kisses (2012), and Yu Hua's Brothers: A Novel (2009), which he co-translated with Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and which was short-listed for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. He is the author of Homesickness: Culture, Contagion, and National Reform in Modern China (2015), The Great Wall: A Cultural History (2010), and The Naked Gaze: Reflections on Chinese Modernity (2008), as well as many articles. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University.
Words Without Borders (WWB): What drew you to Yan Lianke's work?
Carlos Rojas (CR): Before I was invited to translate one of one of Yan Lianke’s works, I was very interested in his treatment of corporeality in works such as Dream of Ding Village, which is inspired by China’s rural AIDS epidemic.
WWB: What was unique about this translation compared to others you'd done?
CR: Each of Yan Lianke’s novels adopts a very different narrative structure and authorial voice. The Four Books, for instance, is structured as four interspliced manuscripts, each of which was written in a very different voice. One of the challenges in translating the novel, accordingly, involved preserving these shifts in tone and linguistic register as the narrative shifted back and forth from one embedded manuscript to another.
WWB: What are you reading now, or which writers from the language and literary tradition you translate do you think readers ought to pay attention to as potential future MBI winners?
CR: Mainland China has a large number of very talented authors, including Su Tong, Jia Pingwa, and Wang Anyi. Other Chinese-language authors I am particularly interested in include Dung Kai-cheung from Hong Kong, Chu T’ien-wen and Luo Yijun from Taiwan, and the Malaysian Chinese authors Ng Kim Chew and Li Yongping.