Published by Bloodaxe Books
Poetry Bookk Society Recommended Translation
Before and since his enforced exile from 1989, Yang Lian has been one of the most innovative and influential poets in China. Widely hailed in America and Europe as a highly individual voice in world literature, he has been translated into many languages.
Narrative Poem, Yang Lian’s most personal work to date, is built around a series of family photographs, the first of which was taken on the day when he was born, on 22 February 1955, and the last of which dates from the time he spent undergoing ‘re-education through labour’ – and digging graves – during the mid-1970s.
The poetry ranges backward and forward in time, covering his childhood and youth, his first period of exile in New Zealand, and his subsequent adventures and travels in and around Europe and elsewhere.
In ‘this unseen structure written by a ghost’ Yang Lian weaves together lived experience with meditations on time, consciousness, history, language, memory and desire, in a search for new/old ways of speaking, thinking and living.
Narrative Poem, or 敘事詩 (Xùshìshī), was published in China in 2011, and this bilingual edition presents the Chinese text alongside Brian Holton’s masterly translation of a technically complex work of great beauty, The book also includes Family Tradition, Yang Lian’s first ever preface to his own work, and Ghost Composer/Ghost Translator, a translator’s afterword by Brian Holton.