Issue 14, February 2008

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Think Big . Think Impact . Think Global - RGC Chair Urges Academics
Predicting the Influence of
Crosswinds on Vehicles
and Cable Bridges
Addressing the Injustice of Space and Housing
Globalisation of Popular Culture
Translations Bring Gao Xingjian's Work to Broader Audience
Best Practice for Project Briefings
New Measurement Aids Understanding of Cement Hydration

A four-year research project which brings the works of Gao Xingjian, Nobel Prize-winning writer, to a broader English-speaking audience is near completion.

Professor Gilbert C.F. Fong, Reader in Translation at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, has led the project. He was motivated by a desire to study Gao as a writer, an artist and a person. Gao left China in 1987 and moved to Paris where he has lived and worked for the past 20 years. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000 and remains the first and only Chinese writer to receive this honour.

"To me, Gao represents a particular as well as typical 21st century situation - he is a writer who finds himself at the crossroads of East and West. He is in exile physically, spiritually and figuratively. How do you deal with this? Do you become Western or do you retain your Chinese heritage and culture?"

"In Gao's case, he treats this dilemma quite casually. He doesn't mould his character in either direction. His attitude is that life will take care of itself, very much like the idea of no mind in Zen Buddhism. His essence remains Chinese, but his writing, particularly in the form of his plays, has been influenced by the West."

Professor Fong has focused on the translation of Gao's plays into English and the development of a formal collection of works which will be an important base for future academic research. He has published The Other Shore (a collection of five plays), Snow in August and Escape and The Man Who Questions Death. Some of these translations have been used for theatrical performances across the world. Besides translating the plays into English, he also co-edited Cold Literature: Selected Works by Gao Xingjian with Mabel Lee, another translator of Gao's works. The plan is to publish The Collected Plays of Gao Xingjian, which hopefully will be completed in two years' time.

There is an important oral history element to Professor Fong's research. In a series of exclusive interviews in Paris, Gao has given his views on drama and theatre.

The transcripts of these interviews will be published in a book entitled Gao Xingjian on Drama.

Professor Fong recognises the importance of maintaining a collection of Gao's works and resource materials to facilitate future academic research. The Chinese University Library has established a Gao Xingjian Special Collection which contains all of Gao's works, their translations in different languages and other secondary materials. Gao, who is recognised as an artist as well as a writer, has donated paintings and hand-written and typed manuscripts as well as personal items ranging from paint brushes and a pen to his reading glasses.

Professor Fong has also assisted in negotiating a co-operative agreement between The Chinese University and the University of Provence in France. This will result in a consolidated Gao Xingjian Collection in the libraries of both universities.

Gao continues to live in France as a French citizen. He will visit Hong Kong in May 2008 for the Gao Xingjian Festival which will include an exhibition of his paintings, two public lectures, an international symposium and the world premiere of his play Of Mountains and Seas at The Chinese University.

Professor Fong Chee Fun
Department of Translation
The Chinese University of Hong Kong