The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature

Three Studies


The important place of Russian literature in China is widely acknowledged. To better understand the processes of its translation, transmission and interpretation during the first half of the 20th century, this book draws on an array of Chinese and Russian sources, providing insight into the interplay of political ideologies, cultural trends, commercial forces, and the self-definition of Chinese culture in the period under consideration. By focusing on the translation and translators of three writers, Boris Savinkov, Mikhail Artsybashev and Leonid Andreev, it analyzes the critical fortune in China of the modernist literature written in Russia during the two decades preceding the Great War and Revolution. Offering a thorough study of Lu Xun, the most important Chinese author of the 20th century, as a reader, translator and interpreter of Russian literature, this book also displays the variety of the groups and persons involved in the introduction of foreign literature, going beyond shopworn generalizations about “East” and “West” to make meaningful statements about a complex period in Chinese history.
Restricted Access


EUR €152.00USD $203.00

Biographical Note

Mark Gamsa, DPhil (2003), University of Oxford, is lecturer in modern Chinese literature and history in the Department of East Asian Studies, Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Review Quotes

'It is no overstatement to say that Mark Gamsa’s The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature: Three Studies is the first comprehensive study in English on the reception of Russian literature in China in the early twentieth century. The depth of the work and the range of the questions on the Chinese translation and interpretation of Russian literature deserve high praise.(...) The scope of research is amazing.(...) The book will be a useful source of information for those who are interested not only in Russian and Chinese literary relations, but also in literary history, criticism, and comparative studies. It serves as a good example of close reading of original texts and translations, as well as the analysis of literary works in historical and social contexts. Finally, this pioneering study lays out a framework for future research on the impact of the Russian literary tradition on the formation of modern Chinese literature.'
ZOYA STANCHITS (University of California, Davis), Journal of Asian Studies, 69 (No. 1, 2010).

'This meticulously researched and well-documented book by Mark Gamsa presents a discursive examination of the nature and impact of the translation of Russian literature into Chinese by focusing on three extended cases studies, reviewing and synthesizing a rich wealth of social, historical, political, and ideological contextual material…[…]
This vast, multifaceted study is thick with scholarly apparati, including, among other things, an annex and glossary, and demonstrates scholarly rigor and critical thinking. […] The study represents a particularly significant contribution to the expanding knowledge of Chinese translation of Russian literature'.
SUN YIFENG (Lingnan University, Hong Kong), Comparative Literature Studies, 47 (No. 2, 2010).

'Gamsa gives readers new glimpses of Lu Xun, the translator and collector of Russian-language books. […] For many literary works, Gamsa carefully studies the retranslation ( zhuanyi) into Chinese alongside both the Russian original and the intermediary translation into English. […] Gamsa’s extraordinary language skills and aptitude for detail are evident in many painstaking triangular comparisons of this kind. […] Gamsa persuasively shows… that in the earlier twentieth century and even in the increasingly left-leaning 1930s and 1940s, the interest of Chinese readers and translators had extended to a much broader range of Russian literature, [including] the writers of the Silver Age… modernists, less concerned with social questions than their nineteenth-century forerunners had been. They focused instead on then-contemporary international topics of sexuality, war, terrorism, and death. By directing attention to major figures outside the Soviet canon, Gamsa allows readers to see the Sino-Russian literary tie in a new light, unfamiliar but relevant to changes in that relationship in recent, post-Soviet years.'
ALISON J. DRAY-NOVEY (College of Notre Dame of Maryland), China Review International, 17 (No. 2, 2010).

'One cannot underestimate the invaluable contribution of this volume in establishing the significance of Russian modernism in the Republican Chinese attempt to understand and take stock of Russian literature. The Silver Age was virtually ignored in Western Russian literary scholarship until researchers returned to it in recent decades. It should not be a surprise that the Silver Age's importance in China was similarly obscured, or that its significance was so broad. Gamsa's erudite command over Silver Age literature helps in bringing to life this fascinating intercultural engagement between China and Russia.'
ROY CHAN (The College of William and Mary), MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2012)

"Mark Gamsa's two book-length studies, published in 2008 and 2010 respectively, address the dearth of scholarship on the Chinese appropriation of Russian literature, and offer thought-provoking insights into the literary relationship between Russia and China. [...] Cautious against the uses of translation theories, his investigation is rigorously empirical and thereby makes solid contributions to the field of the history of Chinese translations. [...] These two studies will no doubt stimulate more discussion and scholarship on the Chinese love for the Russian book."
PU WANG (Brandeis University), SEER 91, 3, July 2013


Researchers of modern Chinese literature and cultural studies, comparative literature, Russian literature, and translation history; all those interested in the transmission and appropriation of Western literature in China.


Collection Information