Kafka and the Yellow Cover: The Uses and Abuses of Colours

The very first Chinese translations of works by Franz Kafka in the early 1960s, shortly before the Cultural Revolution was launched, were wrapped in a yellow cover. They were part of Mao Zedong’s strategy of “knowing your enemy” and, as negative examples of Western decadent literature and a warning sign of the rotten capitalism, these so-called “yellow-cover books” (huangpi shu) were only disseminated among a small circle of selected readers, including high-ranking party officials and members of the Chinese Writers’ Association. Their cover was yellow in order to visually mark them as “hypocritical and treacherous spiritual poison”.

The uses and abuses of colours, like in this case, are the subject of a set of articles recently published in MALMOE – the socio-critical creative Austrian bimonthly newspaper run by the Verein zur Förderung medialer Vielfalt und Qualität (an association for the promotion of diversity and quality of media) in Vienna. After brown and pink the third part of its series Farbenlehre (colour theory) is dedicated to the colour yellow, featuring articles on a variety of topics including the “yellow badge”, the “yellow pages” and the “yellow card” as well as my article HUANG. Gelb und/in China, which can now be read online.


From Germanic & Romance to Modern Languages: the controversial (re)launch of an Institute

On Saturday, 7 December 2013, the former Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies will be (re)launched under its new name, the Institute of Modern Languages Research. The renaming was one result of the recent HEFCE review of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, based on the claim that the former name apparently did not “reflect correctly its future focus and remit”.

The issue met with considerable opposition, in particular within the UK’s German studies community, and serious concern was raised referring to the longstanding history of the Institute, the current problematic developments in the country and the future of German studies.

The Institute has now invited to what it calls “a day of debate and discussion” on post-national modern languages, featuring roundtable discussions on topics such as “Spaces: Iberian and Latin American Connections and Disconnections”, “New Directions in German Studies”, “Post-Colonialism, the Transnational and Translation”, “AHRC Themes (Translating Cultures, Science and Culture”. Furthermore, the work at the Institute will be showcased, including a postgraduate poster session, where I will present my project on the reception of Stefan Zweig in China.

New intercultural research portal launched in Vienna on women and taboo

The Forschungsplattform Elfriede Jelinek: Texte – Kontexte – Rezeption at the University of Vienna just launched the research portal TABU: Bruch. Überschreitungen von Künstlerinnen. The project brings together more than 60 international researchers and artists on topics related to women and taboo in an intercultural context. In addition to several events held in Vienna, more than 50 contributions will be published online between November 2013 and April 2014. In order to explore new ways of academic interaction, these contributions range from conventional academic articles to essays, chats, e-mail and video conversations and interviews. Watch out for my contribution on Elfriede Jelinek and censorship in different parts of the world in spring.