Coming soon: China’s Stefan Zweig

My book on the fascinating reception history of the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) in the Chinese-speaking world is forthcoming with University of Hawai’i Press (Critical Interventions) this autumn/winter!

Watch out for updates!

 

Talk: Poetics and Politics – Stefan Zweig in Taiwan

As part of the Vienna Taiwan Lecture Series at the University of Vienna I will present a chapter of my forthcoming book on the reception of Stefan Zweig in the Chinese-speaking world:

Arnhilt J. Höfle
Poetics and Politics: Stefan Zweig in Taiwan

Date: Wednesday, 22nd March, 2017
Time: 18:15
Location: SIN1, at the Department of East Asian Studies/Sinology, Altes AKH, Campus, Spitalgasse 2, yard 2, entrance 2.3

When several novellas by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) were published in Taiwan in the 1960s they caused a real sensation. The translations by the acclaimed writer and translator Chen Ying (1907-1988) soon broke the record of translation sales. Given the situation of Taiwanese publishers in the 1960s and the difficult position of German-language literature in the book market, this “Stefan Zweig fever” was even more remarkable. To celebrate Zweig’s centenary in the early 1980s, an abridged version of Chen Ying’s translation of his only completed novel Beware of Pity (Ungeduld des Herzens) was included together with ten short stories in a compilation by the PRC’s Shandong People’s Publishing House. While scholars rediscovered Chen Ying as an important representative of modern Chinese women’s literature, they declared her translations of Zweig to be an “important contribution to the reunification of the motherland.” The case of Stefan Zweig in Taiwan therefore not only demonstrates how individual intermediaries, who have often been neglected in historical studies, played a key role in the process of reception. It also allows unique insights into the complexity of literature crossing borders. These translations of an Austrian writer became entangled in the dynamics of cross-Strait relations during the 1980s, when cultural exchanges served as one of the PRC’s most important channels to promote its reunification strategy. Traversing a truly global system of cultural transfer, Zweig’s works have been selected and employed for very different literary and ideological purposes

ALL WELCOME!

 

Guest Lecture: Prof. Mark Gamsa on Translation and Intellectual Geography

ALL WELCOME!

Prof. Mark Gamsa (Tel Aviv University)
Translation and Intellectual Geography: Lu Xun’s Engagement with Gogol’s Dead Souls

Date: Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Time: 18:30
Location: SIN 1, at the Department for East Asian Studies/Chinese Studies

This talk presents a new article, due to be published in the next issue of the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. It traces the previously unstudied history of the publication in Shanghai in 1936 of an album of illustrations for Nikolai Gogol’s novel Dead Souls. Lu Xun, the leading writer of modern China, who was then in the last year of his life, was closely involved in this publishing project while engaged in the re-translation of the Russian novel into Chinese via German and Japanese. The person who acquired the rare album and translated its introduction and the captions of the illustrations directly from the Russian was Meng Shihuan, a young collaborator of Lu Xun: a forgotten agent in the dissemination of Russian literature in China. Through a close reading of Lu Xun’s speculations about the previous owner of the Russian book, which Meng had discovered and acquired in a Shanghai bookstore, I will explain my understanding of translation as part of the history of cross-cultural contact and show how attention to new methodologies of book history and intellectual geography can help us rethink these issues.

Mark Gamsa is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at Tel Aviv University, where he teaches modern Chinese history and literature. He is the author of The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature: Three Studies (Brill, 2008) and The Reading of Russian Literature in China: A Moral Example and Manual of Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Beyond his specialization in Russian-Chinese relations, he is interested in the modern history of both these countries; global history; European-Asian contacts and the cultural history of translation. He is now completing a book on the Russian-Chinese encounter in Manchuria, with a focus on the city of Harbin.

New Blog on Digital Humanities and Sino-German History

Despite a growing number of digital research tools, the potential of Digital Humanities (DH), the intersection of the humanities and computing, has certainly not been fully exploited yet. Henrike Rudolph, a member of the Graduate Programme “China in Germany, Germany in China” at the University of Hamburg, has recently started a new blog to highlight methods and approaches of DH in the field of Chinese studies.

In three sections she introduces not only useful tools for language learning and historical research, such as MARKUS, the Chinese Text Project or the China Biographical Database Project, but also relevant full-text databases for different historical periods as well as a selection of online research initiatives, such as the MCLC Resource Center at Ohio State University or the international research network The PRC History Group.

In addition, the blog presents Henrike Rudolph’s own research, such as her recently completed project on vocational education in Sino-German history, and provides a substantial reading list on the many different facets of Sino-German history.

This new blog will be a very valuable resource for established scholars as well as undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in the historical relations between the Chinese-speaking and the German-speaking world and the exciting new possibilities of Digital Sinology.

New Publication: The Liberating Masculinity of Goethe’s Werther and Its Repression in Modern China

Guo Moruo’s translation of Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) in 1922 triggered a large-scale “Werther fever” in China. As “the bible of modern Chinese youth,” Werther soon became an icon of the New Culture Movement, an intellectual movement of the 1910s and 1920s that turned against the traditional feudal ways of Chinese society.

In this chapter, recently published in the volume Gendered Encounters between Germany and Asia: Transnational Perspectives since 1800, I trace the rise and demise of Werther in modern China through the lens of gender. Quite surprisingly, gender, and in particular masculinities, is a perspective that has been almost entirely neglected in studies on this crucial moment of German-Chinese literary relations so far.

Re-reading Chinese literary works of the period, I argue that  Werther’s uncontrolled emotionality dangerously trespassed both traditional Chinese concepts of masculinity, wen (cultural attainment) and wu (martial valor), and thus represented a liberating counter-image that needed to be contained. First replaced by female Werther figures, Chinese writers of the 1930s harshly parodied the sentimental man.

Mao Dun’s Midnight (Ziye) and Ba Jin’s Family (Jia), two of the most influential modern Chinese novels, are among the key texts of the analysis. The repression of Werther’s masculinity in these works, I conclude, sheds light on a more complex and even paradox process of negotiating gender roles at a historical crossroads.

Gendered Encounters is the second volume published in the newly launched Palgrave Series in Asian German Studies. Dedicated to this new interdisciplinary field, it focuses on the multi-faceted dimensions of ties between the German-speaking world and Asian countries over the past two centuries.

See:

Arnhilt Johanna Hoefle, “The Liberating Masculinity of Goethe’s Werther and Its Repression in Modern China,” in Gendered Encounters between Germany and Asia: Transnational Perspectives since 1800, edited by Joanne Miyang Cho and Douglas T. McGetchin, 151-169. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Stefan Zweig on the Screen: Maria Schrader’s Vor der Morgenröte

Maria Schrader’s episodic film Vor der Morgenröte, which is released today on 2 June 2016, depicts the last years in the life of Stefan Zweig. It is the most recent manifestation of a re-discovered interest in Zweig. It is different from other projects that have tried to solve the enigma of this best-loved and best-hated Austrian writer. In his arguably sensationalist book Ulrich Weinzierl for example claims to have discovered Zweig’s “burning secrets,” in particular his alleged homosexual and pedophile fantasies and exhibitionist habits as a young man (see this critical review by Stephan Resch). Schrader’s film, on the contrary, carefully negotiates Zweig’s role as the world’s most famous writer before and during the Second World War.

Framed by a prologue and an epilogue the film catches up with Zweig in four episodes between 1936 and his suicide in 1942. The first one shows Zweig during his journey to South America in 1936, on his way to represent the German-speaking writers at the 14th International PEN Congress in Buenos Aires. Compared to the outspokenly antifascist Emil Ludwig, who soon becomes the Argentine newspapers’ star, Zweig refuses to speak against Germany. Writers should focus on their work and not become involved in politics.

His contemporaries accuse him of cowardice and arrogance, charges that echo in his European and North American reception throughout the century and until the present day. Apart from questioning his works’ quality (some might remember Michael Hofmann’s attack on the “Pepsi of Austrian writing” of 2010), his skepticism towards politics is one of the most important reasons for his controversial position within the canon of modern German-language literature.

Vor der Morgenröte is the second film directed by the acclaimed actress Maria Schrader, who is nominated for the German Film Prize. Stefan Zweig is played in a grandiose performance by Josef Hader, otherwise famous as a satirical cabaret artist or the always grumpy private detective Brenner in the film adaptations of Wolf Haas’ crime novels. He is accompanied by two, in their very own way, very strong women: Aenne Schwarz as his second wife Lotte Zweig and Barbara Sukowa, who is also nominated for the German Film Prize as best supporting actress, as his ex-wife Friderike Zweig. The film is a cinematographic masterpiece, thanks to cameraman Wolfgang Thaler, who is known for his work with the Austrian directors Michael Glawogger and Ulrich Seidl.

The film neither intends to condemn nor to defend Zweig. Its strength is to allow us a glimpse into the depths, the friendships and alliances but also the conflicts, solitude and the despair of exile – then and now.

Vor der Morgenröte is featured as the film of the month by Kinofenster.de, a cooperation of the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung and Vision Kino. Apart from interviews with director Maria Schrader and cameraman Wolfgang Thaler, the online platform provides a film review, background articles on German-language exile literature in the 1930s and the narrative strategies of the biopic as well as a set of practical suggestions for teachers.

Talk: Stefan Zweig and (World) Literature in Exile

The reception of Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) presents one of the greatest literary conundrums of our time. While in the 1920s, at the height of his career, the Austrian-Jewish novelist was among the most widely read and most-acclaimed German-language writers, his works fell into radical critical disfavor in the second half of the century.

The allegedly poor literary quality and his apolitical nostalgic approach as an exiled Jewish writer during the Holocaust, have become the main targets of his critics in Europe and North America. However, Zweig’s works have enjoyed not only continued admiration but even canonical status in other parts of the world, such as in China.

In this upcoming talk on January 26, 2016 at the University of Hamburg I will take the Chinese reception of Zweig as a case study to introduce a different way of reading the Austrian writer that reveals important political and literary dimensions that have long been overlooked.

According to David Damrosch, literary works enter into world literature when they circulate beyond the culture of origin. Despite the truly global scale of Stefan Zweig’s biography, literary settings, and readership, the concept of world literature has just recently been discussed in research on the writer, for example in the volume Stefan Zweig and World Literature of 2014 edited by Birger Vanwesenbeeck and Mark H. Gelber.

While circulating and thriving around the world, Zweig’s works have been almost completely removed from their original linguistic and cultural context in the course of the twentieth century. This talk therefore argues that Zweig’s works must be considered not only as exile literature but as “literature in exile.” It thus showcases the intricate and problematic interrelations of exile literature and world literature and explores new perspectives for an urgently needed re-conceptualization of these contested concepts.

The talk will be hosted by the Walter A. Berendsohn Forschungsstelle für deutsche Exilliteratur, a research center dedicated to exile literature at the University of Hamburg, which has been re-named in 2001 after one of the pioneers of academic research into literature by exiled German-language writers.

Walter A. Berendsohn (1884-1984) had been a professor of literary studies at the University of Hamburg who escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Denmark and Sweden. Adverse university politics prevented him from returning to Hamburg even after 1945. Only in 1983, almost hundred years old, he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

Berendsohn had already prominently pointed out the close relationship between exile literature and world literature, which is also one of the main research areas of the center. Focusing on historical as well as contemporary experiences of exile, the team around Prof. Doerte Bischoff, who was appointed the research center’s head in 2011, is giving a fresh impetus into a field which, given the current European “refugee crisis,” pertains to one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Talk (in German) by Arnhilt Johanna Hoefle
Stefan Zweig und (Welt-)Literatur im Exil
January 26, 2016
Carl-von-Ossietzky-Lesesaal (Exilbibliothek)
Von-Melle-Park 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

Free admission and all welcome!