Ingilizce, a Chinese novel about English in Turkish translation

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I'm surprised that, until today, I had never heard of the novel entitled Yīnggélìshì 英格力士 (English) by Wáng Gāng 王刚, which was published in 2004.  Now, thanks to Bruce Humes's article, "The 2013 Istanbul Book Fair, Xinjiang Connections and 'English'", posted November 3 on his blog called "Altaic Storytelling:  Tales from Istanbul to Heilongjiang", I'm delighted to learn about this fascinating book.

In an April 18 post by Bruce, "Book Review: “English” by Wang Gang, or Growing up Han in Fictional Xinjiang", I find that there is even an English translation of the novel by by Martin Merz and Jane Weizhen Pan that was published by Viking Penguin in 2009.  Here's the Amazon listing for the translation, with editorial and customer reviews.

How could I possibly have missed this colorful novel, especially since it is about a guy named Love Liu (!) who grows up in the polyglot (Uyghur, Russian, Chinese) swirl of Xinjiang during the Cultural Revolution in the far northwest of the PRC (where the mummies I have studied were found)?  When English appears on the scene, in the person of Mr. Second Prize Wang, a cosmopolitan English teacher from Shanghai, Love becomes enamored of this new language and attracted to his teacher.
Here's the entry on Wang Gang in Paper Republic, and here's a review of the novel by Gregory McCormick in The Quarterly Conversation.

Bruce is currently in Istanbul studying Turkish and undergoing "China de-tox", having lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, or Kunming since 1992.  He reports:

The goal would be to get enough modern Turkish under my belt so I could move onto Ottoman Turkish. Eventually, I'd like to be able to carry out research into the history of translation between Turkic languages and Chinese, or even better, re: the current topic of my newly christened blog: Altaic storytelling, particularly the role of itinerant aşık. I don't know much about it, but it really appeals. The older I get, the more interested I am in oral transmission as opposed to written literature.

A noble goal, one that is certainly to reap interesting and valuable results.  I look forward to learning more about Bruce's discoveries in the coming years.


  1. Bruce Humes said,

    November 3, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

    Ironically, the Turkish rendition of the novel was translated from . . . the English translation, not the Chinese original.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    November 3, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

    @Bruce Humes

    That probably tells us something about the number of people in Turkey who are competent in Chinese.

  3. Brendan said,

    November 3, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

    I remember the translators saying that they had actually wanted to render the title of the book as "ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ" or something along those lines, but that the publisher had baulked.

    @Bruce Humes – A pity, but probably not surprising. The Chinese translations of Orhan Pamuk were all done from the English versions (with the exception of My Name is Red, I believe), and are pretty clunky by all accounts.

  4. Bruce Humes said,

    November 3, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

    @Brendan, it's true earlier translations of Pamuk into Chinese were based on the English versions, but at least some of his works now published in the PRC were translated from the original Turkish by Shen Zhixing (沈志兴), who studied in Ankara in the late 1980s and teaches Turkish: "My Name is Red" (我的名字叫红) and "The White Castle" (白色城堡), for instance. For a fuller list of Pamuk's novels and their Chinese translators, see my table of Turkish Works in Chinese (

    I do not know for certain that his other novels listed in that table were translated from the Turkish. But when I interviewed him several years ago, I Shen Zhixing did tell me this: that Pamuk had learned that the Taiwan version of "My Name is Red" — based on the English — was poorly done, and he had decided that henceforward all his Chinese translators must work from the Turkish original.

  5. JQ said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    There were several Chinese people competing for Turkey at the Olympics. From what I could tell on the TV, they communicated with their Turkish coaches in English.

  6. Paul Cowan said,

    November 6, 2013 @ 10:06 am

    I see the Grande Bibliothèque here in Montreal has a French translation by by Emmanuelle Péchenart and Pascale Wei-Guinot. How to resist such a cross-cultural experience?

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