“Trans-Asian Popular Aesthetics”

The Reception of Hindi Popular Fiction in 1980s China

In: Journal of World Literature
Yan Jia Peking University

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From 1980 to 1991, seven titles of Gulshan Nanda’s Hindi popular fiction were translated into Chinese without Western involvement, and Kaṭī pataṅg alone spawned nearly twenty adaptations in both theatrical and picture-story book forms. This essay argues that Nanda’s popular fiction contributed to China’s cultural reconstruction in the 1980s by fulfilling the previously repressed need of Chinese readers for entertaining novels that conveyed a desired moral order, by enabling Chinese translators of Indian literature to engage with the literary debate about the re-evaluation of popular literature, and by helping revitalize Chinese theatre in a time of crisis. This paper shows the complexity of transnational flows of popular literature by presenting a Trans-Asian example that relies on the melodramatic appeal of the works, their relevance to local issues, and the scholarly engagement in the host culture, rather than the author’s global stardom or the marketing strategies of multinational publishing companies.

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