We are delighted to announce that Freya Tong has been awarded our second annual New Translator’s Bursary. The bursary was awarded in December 2022 to help Freya complete her translation of Mister Slow of Joondalup’s short story ‘River of Fire’. The story will be published in our winter issue in November.
The 2022 New Translator’s Bursary attracted 40 applications from new and emerging translators from around the world. The applications were assessed by our translator in residence, Frank Wynne, who had this to say about the process:
‘Reading for the second annual Stinging Fly bursary was a glorious, eye-opening journey. For its second year, submissions for the bursary were limited to the languages of Asia – whose cultures, languages, narrative styles and literatures have too long been disregarded in the Anglophone world. Unsurprisingly, a focus on Asian languages and stories revealed how ingenuous it is to attempt to group languages and literatures by arbitrary socio-political areas. The forty submissions for this year’s bursary included translations from sixteen languages including Tamil, Malayalam, Kazakh, Filipino and Thai. Those most represented were Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Arabic.
‘People sometimes say that attempting to judge between translations is comparing apples and oranges, but I’ve always maintained that it’s often more like comparing apples and particle accelerators. Given the myriad literary traditions of these languages and cultures, it seems specious to suggest that comparison is possible. One can only react as a reader – excited by narrative styles, by the author’s and translator’s use of imagery and language, by the sweep or the restraint of the emotions explored. From a shortlist of six exceptional translation samples, we finally (and with some difficulty) settled on Freya Tong’s translation of “River of Fire” by Mister Slow of Joondalup, originally published in Mandarin Chinese on Weibo in 2015. The wit and startling imagery of Mister Slow’s satire of bureaucracy, vanity and greed, set in the northwestern hinterlands after the Cultural Revolution was conjured with dazzling humour, pace and cadence in Freya Tong’s translation.’
We will be announcing details of our 2023 bursary early next week.
Freya Tong is a translator, poet, and writer who believes passionately in using words and languages to break down the barriers between people and the walls between worlds. Freya grew up in America and China, splits her time between the two countries, and works in both Mandarin Chinese and English.
About Mister Slow of Joondalup – (pictured)
In December 2014, a young first-time author writing under the nom de plume ‘Mister Slow of Joondalup’ shot to instant fame on the Chinese Internet. His debut story, ‘A Clergyman’s Christmas Eve’, was a riotous satire on the uneasy marriage between localised Christianity and political pragmatism in contemporary China that garnered 10+ million views on Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform. Since then, Mister Slow’s writing has appeared in leading Chinese literary magazines including Frontiers, Huacheng, and Hong Kong Literature, and his short story ‘Erlkönig’ placed third in the Chinese Fiction Institution’s Top 10 Chinese Short Stories of 2018.
‘River of Fire’ takes place in the northwestern hinterlands of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in 1979, three years after the decade-long storm of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) ended. In the story, bureaucracy, corruption, vanity, greed, and disregard for human life snowball into a devastating disaster with crushing momentum. On display are Mister Slow’s characteristic vivid, visceral imagery, his keen sense of how individual fate can mesh with the mechanisms of power, and his dark, wry, inventive wit.
Originally from China, Mister Slow currently works as a builder in Australia. He continues to write fiction and screenplays, and hopes to find a wider audience for his work in English.
Frank Wynne is an Irish literary translator, writer and editor. He has translated numerous French and Hispanic authors including Michel Houellebecq, Ahmadou Kourouma, Javier Cercas and Virginie Despentes. His work has earned him numerous awards, most recently the 2022 Dublin Literary Award for his translation of The Art of Losing. He was chair of the jury for the 2022 International Booker Prize.