Bonnie McDougall

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Australia | 2011

Bonnie McDougall was born in Sydney and first studied Chinese at Peking University (1958-59). Academic appointments include teaching and research at Sydney University, followed by SOAS, Harvard, Oslo, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong. The founding professor of Chinese at the University of Edinburgh in 1990, she was appointed Emeritus Professor in 2006. While a full-time translator at the Foreign Languages Press in the 1980s, McDougall translated poetry, fiction and film-scripts by new writers emerging through the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, among them Bei Dao, Ah Cheng, Chen Kaige, Gu Cheng, Qiu Xiaolong and Wang Anyi. Her other translations include poetry, fiction, drama and essays by Guo Moruo, He Qifang, Ye Shengtao, Yu Dafu, Ding Xilinand Zhu Guangqian, and Hong Kong fiction and poetry by Xi Xi, Dung Kai Cheung and Leung Bing-kwan.

She has taught literary translation at the College of Foreign Affairs in Beijing as well as in the UK and Hong Kong. Recent books include Love-letters and Privacy in Modern China: The Intimate Lives of Lu Xun and Xu Guangping (Oxford, 2002); Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences: Modern Chinese Literature in the Twentieth Century (Hong Kong, 2003); and the translation into English of The King of Trees by Ah Cheng (New York, 2010).


Report 2011

My first project for my term at the Santa Maddalena Foundation was the translation of a short story by Tie Ning, one of the best-known fiction writers in China and currently the president of the Chinese Writers Association. I was commissioned to translate this story for an anthology to be published in the US later this year. The text formed part of my teaching material for my postgraduate course in literary translation at Sydney University in the first half of this year.

The second was to translate a group of poems by Ng Mei-kwan, a well-known Hong Kong poet who holds a PhD in Chinese studies at the University of Sydney. I expect to have the full group published later this year in an Australian literary magazine.

Shortly before leaving for Italy, I received the news that a novel translated by the author, my husband and me had been accepted by Columbia University Press for publication early next year. The author is Dung Kai-cheung, Hong Kong’s leading novelist and winner of several literary awards in Hong Kong and Taiwan. During my stay I wrote an introduction just short of 5000 words and prepared the ms for copyediting.

I also wrote two papers on modern Chinese literature and literary translation to be delivered in Sydney in August and September.

All of these efforts will acknowledge the support of the SMF.

Sadly my final project stalled: to introduce Chinese writers to the SMF as future fellows. I still hope there’s hope…

I have left two books here. One is my translation of three novellas by Ah Cheng, a revised edition published by New Directions earlier this year. Ah Cheng is recognised as the outstanding fiction writer in China in the 1980s. The other is my book on two modes of literary translation in modern China, authoritarian command and gift exchange. I will send a copy of the Hong Kong novel and the Hong Kong poetry translations when they become available.

The tranquil setting and exhilarating atmosphere here have been an ideal combination for writing. Fellow-residents and staff have been not only wonderfully generous with their support but also endlessly fascinating: Beatrice above all. There were some small problems that loomed larger through the absence of anything serious. I will remain always grateful for this experience.

BMcD 11 July 2011