In this conversation, Michael Juliani and Bonnie Huie discuss Huie’s new translation of Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile, a coming-of- age novel about a group of queer friends in late 80’s, post-martial-law Taipei, recently released in May 2017 by NYRB Classics.
Michael Juliani: You said it took a long time to getNotes of a Crocodile into print. I’m wondering if you could describe how you arrived at translating it.
Bonnie Huie: I got into translation on a fluke. It was me not putting two things together in my mind. I studied Chinese in college. I used to do more of my own writing, and I showed it to someone from Taiwan who had her first poetry collection published by a very nice indie publisher and she said, “I would love to have an English translation of my book.” And I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” And as a gift, she gave me books by Qiu Miaojin.
Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process which brought them to the moment of completion that we call a book. As Omnidawn’s co-publisher and senior poetry editor, I’ve had that great good fortune. It finally occurred to me that the readers and reviewers of these books might enjoy hearing some of this talk, too. Of course, a book of poetry needs no introduction or liner notes. But I’m always interested in any stories about how and where authors’ intentions and the actual creative work tangle together. So I started asking each of our authors a few questions in writing, and then enclosing these “interviews” with our advance/review copies. When the book is published, I post the interview on the book’s web page. The Conversant’s editors have asked if they might select some of those interviews to publish. It is my pleasure to say yes! This conversation focuses on Erín Moure’s translation of Chus Pato’s Flesh of Leviathan. –Rusty Morrison
Rusty Morrison: I could not believe our luck, and your faith in us, when you offered Omnidawn your translation of Chus Pato’s Flesh of Leviathan. I imagine that many readers will be very familiar with Chus Pato’s history and writings, but some may not be. I think it would be wonderful if you’d share what will be most engaging, most relevant to a new reader regarding this text, its importance, its position in Chus Pato’s trajectory.