Novel, Film, and the Art of Translational Storytelling: Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress（戴思杰： 巴尔扎克与小裁缝）
Joint seminar with Komplitt (SOL) and Aesthetic Node (LUX)
Born into a family of doctors, raised in Chengdu, Dai Sijie 戴思杰, at the age of 17, was sent to the remote, rural area of the province for 're-education' from 1971 to 1974. The story of Balzac in both novel and film recounts the vicissitudes of the two 'rusticated youths' (知青)—Ma and Luo—as they are sent down from Chengdu to the fictional mountain of Phenix Mountain. It is largely drawn from Dai's own experience of the political movement during the Cultural Revolution, known as 'Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside' (上山下乡运动), in which youths with a secondary or higher education and deemed pro-bourgeois were sent to the countryside by force to learn from peasants and workers. In 1984, Dai left China for France to study cinema and has been residing in Paris ever since. He bagan his career as a cineaste. He had already made three feature films before publishing his debut French-language novel Balzacin 2000, which was then adapted by the author himself as a film shot in predominantly Sichuanese dialect in 2002.
Reorienting the general critical tendency to examine the film from the perspective of the novel, the first part of my analysis will make clear how the film illuminates and dramatizes the special texture and aesthetic, and to some extend the structure, of the novel. I then move on to investigate the linguistic aspect of the various translations between the novel and the film—among French, Mandarin Chinese, and Sichuanese and through subtitling and dubbing. The aesthetic effect of dubbing, in particular, will allow me to investigate new possibilities of reading exophone literature, or more precisely, the emerging genre of francophone Chinese literature. Finally, this paper will highlight the centripetal role of oral storytelling in the Chinese tradition in/through various forms of translation, interlingual as well as intermedial. In doing this, the paper will further nuance and enrich current debates on issues such as intercultural misreading and exoticism in Dai's works.
Shuangyi Li is one of the co-organisers of our Komplitt seminars. He worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in French and Comparative Literature at Lund University between 2017-2019. He has recently been awarded a 3-year grant by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) to complete his second monograph, titled Translation, Translingualism, and Transmedia Aesthetics: Franco-Chinese Literature and Visual Arts in a Global Age. He is the author of the book Proust, China and Intertextual Engagement: Translation and Transcultural Dialogue (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Before coming to Lund, Shuangyi had received his PhD at the University of Edinburgh in the UK and studied at l'Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and L'École Normale Supérieure in Paris.