12 July 2009

Ha Jin

Steven G. Kellman once asked Ha Jin, “In your fiction, do you consciously try to create an English style that simulates the Chinese spoken by your characters?”

Ha Jin answered, "Yes. I want to make the language sound authentic and purposely avoid standard English. Also, this is an opportunity to see how much English can absorb the distortion. In this respect, English is pliantly robust."

The role of the multilingual critic is to answer the question: Does the English [of Ha Jin and other similarly-situated writers] simulate the Chinese? To answer this question, the critic has to be fairly competent in both English and Chinese. That, needless to say, is extremely difficult, though not impossible: it is hard enough being competent in one of these complex languages. Perhaps this is the reason we don't really get literary criticism that addresses this question.

1 comment:

  1. Ha Jin's response to the rather naive question posed to him is an example of a text that deconstructs itself. Who sets the "standard" of a language that is robust and pliant? Dialogue, as text, at best is a simulation by the writer trying to make it sound like Cantonese or Cockney.