CSU, Chico News

‘Finnegans Wake’ Translator Congrong Dai to Speak Feb. 17

Date: 02-04-2015

Zachary Phillips, editorial assistant
Public Affairs
Adrienne Glatz
University Advancement

California State University, Chico will host a lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 17, by comparative literature professor Congrong Dai of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, on her work translating James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”into Chinese.

Dai’s lecture, titled “The Charm of the Unreadable and Untranslatable Fiction: The Chinese Obsession with James Joyce and Irish Literature” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Rowland-Taylor Recital Hall (Performing Arts Center 134), with a reception afterward in PAC 132. She will discuss her trials and success in translating “Finnegans Wake,” as well as how she first became interested in Irish literature.

The lecture is sponsored by CSU, Chico’s Department of English; Department of Philosophy; Department of International Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; Humanities Center; and University Advancement.

Dai has received global recognition for her work since the first of three volumes of her “Finnegans Wake”translation was released in 2013. It took her eight years to complete the first volume of the translation, and her work achieved instant commercial success in China.

The original novel, written by James Joyce and published in 1939, is widely known as one of the English language’s most difficult reads. Comprised of experimental writing techniques, complex allusions and made-up language, the novel is said to recreate the complex confusion of a dream.

Aiping Zhang, chair of CSU, Chico’s English department and Dai’s former colleague at Fudan University, said that many Chinese scholars have tried to translate “Finnegans Wake”in the past but found the task too daunting.

“From my angle as a colleague, as a scholar, as a friend and as a fan of Joyce, one thing I really appreciate about [Dai’s] work is the painstaking attention she has paid to the need to translate the book in a way that will really be accessible and enjoyable to the ordinary readers, not just the scholars,” he said. “To me, no one else has been able to do that.”

Zhang also noted that Dai’s work with “Finnegans Wake”in the last few years has revolutionized the way that Chinese scholars read, study and translate foreign novels.

“It’s not really crazy to read a foreign novel despite the differences between the cultures, between the languages, between the two nations,” he said. “She showed to everybody that as long as you are willing to invest your heart and mind into it, you will really discover a totally different world.”

Dai is currently a professor of comparative literature at Fudan University. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in comparative and world literature at Nanjing University in Nanjing, China. She is currently working on the second volume of her “Finnegans Wake”translation.

For more information on the lecture, contact Adrienne Glatz in University Advancement at 530-898-6162. If you require an accommodation in order to participate in this event or have questions about accessibility, please contact the Accessibility Resources Center at 530-898-5959.