The Writing of the Unwritten and the Translation of the Untranslatable: Alexandra David-Néel’s Reception in China

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

he French writer and explorer Alexandra David-Néel (1868–1969) is internationally renowned for being the first Western woman to reach, in 1924, Tibet's onetime forbidden capital of Lhasa. Her personal recounting of this treacherous expedition, in Voyage d'une parisienne à Lhassa, is considered one of the most compelling travelogues ever written in French. As a maverick figure of French Orientalism, David-Néel was introduced to Chinese readers long ago. Yet a close look at her reception in China brings to light some of the most tangled aspects of West–East cross-cultural representation, such as clichéd exoticism, translatorial censorship, forgery of ideologically edifying discourses, and so forth. Through a series of philological investigations of some heavily modulated Chinese translations of David-Néel's writings, I show that the tripartite, interpretive dynamic between France, Tibet, and modern-day China cannot simply be reduced to a dualistic, unilateral, and static power pattern, since we see that the Chinese, despite being themselves “Oriental,” could, advisedly or unconsciously, produce falsified images of another “Oriental” entity placed at a less advantageous position through a French medium.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-430
JournalComparative Literature Studies
Volume54
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2017
Externally publishedYes

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