Bei Dao and World Literature

Jacob Edmond

in A Common Strangeness

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780823242597
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823242634 | DOI:

Series: Verbal Arts

Bei Dao and World Literature

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This chapter reframes the extensive critical debate about translation, globalization, and national and world literatures sparked by the work of Chinese poet Bei Dao 北岛. It argues that Bei Dao’s writing addresses the allegorical readings and translations that produce and repeatedly transform conceptions of the national, the world, and the global. Because of the allegorical mutability of Bei Dao’s work, poems written secretly in his early twenties could become rallying cries for a generation, appear a decade later (in 1989) on protest banners, and, the following year, be read as representative of a globalized world literature without a history or identity. Instead of fixing literature and history within a single story––a single world or world literature––or set of binaries––local/global or individual/collective––Bei Dao’s allegories emphasize the historical flux and contested readings that gave birth to our current era.

Keywords: Bei Dao 北岛; allegory; translation; globalization; world literature; national literature; Chinese poetry; 1989

Chapter.  11250 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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