Bloomsday in China


Today, June 16, is Bloomsday, the annual commemoration to celebrate Irish writer James Joyce and the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which take place in Dublin on June 16, 1904.

‘Bloomsday’ is named after the hero of the novel Leopold Bloom. Joyce chose June 16 because it was the day of his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle.

In 1994, a Chinese translation of Ulysses was published and became a best seller. The translators were Xiao Qian (萧乾) and his wife Wen Jieruo (文潔若).

On an unrelated subject, June 16 is also Youth Day in South Africa, commemorating a protest march against apartheid education policies by high school students in 1976 in Soweto near Johannesburg. The police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing hundreds high school students.


An Irishman who identifies himself as Buck Mulligan sent in the following comment:

It is said by those who can read that a much better translation of Ulysses is that by Jin Di who is less favored in China than the more widely celebrated political hack Xiao Qian.

I don’t think its banned but it is hard to find—I have tried to buy it a couple of times and always got handed Xiao Qian’s one. I interviewed both of them years ago—Xiao is now dead—and found Jin delightfully contrary and more serious than Xiao. They have both had amazing lives. Xiao covered the Nuremberg trials for Ta Kong Pao (大公報) and Jin read Ulysses in 1938 and not again until the 1980s. In the meantime he suffered all the Cultural Revolution hassles of an educated sophisticate including pig farming if I recall, but never forgot Mr. Joyce.

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