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Reconstructing a Narrative, Reinterpreting a History: A Case Study of Translating Big Breasts and Wide Hips

Xiao, Di; Zheng, Binghan


Di Xiao


Literary translation in the English-speaking community has become the most significant pathway for foreign works to enter the World Literature scene and compete for international recognitions. It is therefore worth examining the role of translation in literary canonisation. This research studies the “Mobel” phenomenon of the 2012 Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, selecting one of Mo’s most representative works – Big Breasts and Wide Hips as the material for case study. By comparing the original and the translated text, it aims to identify both micro translation changes and macro editing choices. Such textual analysis is then combined with references to meta-texts including translator’s preface and interviews, the readers’ response embodied in Nobel Prize documents, literary critiques and media reports. Considering that the controversies around Mo’s winning have fixated on his own political identity and politically sensitive works, the case study will focus on the book’s interpretation of China’s political history. In particular, it will analyse and discuss the portrayal of four main types of historical actors in the book: the perpetrators, the spectators, the heroes and the heirs. Free from the value judgment of translation quality or accuracy, it will eventually demonstrate that translation is a transformative, constructive and performative action deeply grounded in the cultural and social context of the target language.


Xiao, D., & Zheng, B. (2015). Reconstructing a Narrative, Reinterpreting a History: A Case Study of Translating Big Breasts and Wide Hips. Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies, 2(3), 155-173.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 30, 2015
Publication Date 2015
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2015
Journal Asia Pacific translation & intercultural studies : official journal of the Asia-Pacific forum on translation and intercultural studies.
Print ISSN 2330-6343
Electronic ISSN 2330-6351
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 3
Pages 155-173
Keywords Mo Yan, World Literature, historical narrative, contemporary Chinese literature