Translation

My Life of Running Away

The doctor who exposed an HIV scandal in China reflects on a life of exile – Gao Yaojie, trans. Mengyu Dong

Translator’s note: In the mid 1990s, while in her eighties, Dr Gao Yaojie uncovered a network of unsanitary blood collection and sales that eventually led to a devastating HIV outbreak in central China. As she gained international influence, the Chinese authorities briefly recognized her work before harassing her and putting her under house arrest. In 2009, Gao Yaojie left China and settled in New York with help from friends and volunteers. She has since published three books detailing her research on the AIDS epidemic. Gao wrote this short memoir about these experiences in the spring of 2020, just as the outbreak of the coronavirus hit the US. It was published on September 5 by Initium Media (paywall) and is translated here for the first time in English. – Mengyu Dong

I am 93 years old. I’ve had to run away from many things throughout my life. I ran from Shandong to Henan. I ran from one part of Henan to the next, where I lived through the tough times of my prime years. It didn’t stop in Henan. When I was an 82-year-old fighting against the AIDS epidemic, I had to run away from my country. For more than a decade, I’ve lived in New York in exile, by myself. Now with America as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, there’s nowhere left for me to run. I am old and sick. What can I do?

 

Translation

Tarim, My Uyghur Friend

On an interned intellectual in Xinjiang, by Tang Danhong – trans. Anne Henochowicz

This essay, by Chinese-born, Israel-based author and documentary artist Tang Danhong, is a reflection on her relationship with the Uyghur scholar and poet Dr Ablet Abdurishit Berqi, called “Tarim” in the essay, whose name was later published on public lists of intellectuals interned in Xinjiang. Tang befriended Dr Berqi during his postdoctoral fellowship at Haifa University, Israel. The Uyghurs are a majority-Muslim ethnic group in China’s far northwestern province of Xinjiang and the primary target of China’s ongoing campaign of cultural genocide in the region; since 2017, China has put over a million Uyghurs and other Muslims into “re-education” camps, where their language, faith and heritage are forcibly suppressed. Tang confronts this unfolding horror as she searches for news of Dr. Berqi, a secular Muslim and political moderate who tried to work within China’s party-state system to improve the lives of his people. This is the first time the full translation is appearing in English, and the text is punctuated by excerpts of translated poetry by Dr Berqi. – Anne Henochowicz

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I retweeted Erkin: “The president of XX University has confirmed that a research fellow in the College of Humanities, Dr. Z.B., has been arrested; his colleague, Professor G.O., a fellow in pre-modern Uyghur literature, has also been arrested, because he once attended a conference in Turkey. Their whereabouts are unknown.” The tweet included photos of the two scholars. They looked to be in their forties and both had a cultivated poise, the obvious bearing of respected intellectuals.

 

Fiction, Translation

Headscarf Girl

New fiction by Cao Kou – translated by Josh Stenberg

Cao Kou’s short fiction often masquerades as the casual recollection or chatty anecdote of a youngish male first-person narrator. People who have lived in Chinese cities will recognize this streetscape, with its gritty locales and paucity of private space. Non-Han Muslims are a visible part of that landscape, especially in eateries like the one where this Han narrator has started taking meals. The protagonist is attracted to the “headscarf girl,” but he combines this with an incuriosity so fundamental that he likely doesn’t know her name; her vanishing at the end earns only a shrug. This brief anti-romantic tale speaks volumes about the realities and anxiety of the intersections of gender, ethnicity and religion in the contemporary Chinese metropolis, and it is likely this unease which had led to it being published here for the first time, rather than in China. – Josh Stenberg


I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I’ve eaten at all the places to eat near where I live. And there’s one or two where I’ve eaten lots of times, so there’s an owner and a waitress, both women, that I’ve gotten to know.

Translation

Hooking Up Under Lockdown

A personal essay by Fan Popo, translated by Allen Young

Not long ago, a heartwarming story appeared on the blog Humans of New York: anxiously awaiting his Covid-19 test results, a young man opened Grindr and shared his fears with a retired doctor he’d met. The two had no intimate contact, yet the older gentleman offered more than a shoulder to cry on: he brought over quarantine supplies and left them at the young man’s door.

The post got hundreds of thousands of likes on Facebook, maybe because people are especially in need of this kind of positive energy right now. Turns out that Grindr – a hookup app – can be used in diverse and innocent ways. You have to wonder, though: did those two really open the app just out of a desire to chat? Life under lockdown has heightened our sexual anxieties. In a world of social distancing, has the carefree hookup become just another fantasy?

The mood of panic inevitably calls to mind the AIDS fears of the 1980s, when gay men in the US and Europe began to regard each other with suspicion. The crisis left such a deep stigma that virtually the entire community has some connection to it, from the daddies who lived through it to the twinks and cubs who are just coming onto the scene.

Translation

Qinghe Prison

A short story by Bei Ling, translated by Scott Savitt

It’s afternoon. I’m being transported in a military jeep. On the road I ask the undercover officer: “Where am I being taken?”

“To a hotel,” the plainclothes officer scoffs.

The jeep is speeding down a newly paved freeway in Beijing’s faceless western outskirts.

The jeep slows down and enters a compound surrounded by a towering wall. An electric fence lines the top of the wall, and armed soldiers man the guard towers.

Next to the iron gate is a sign that says: Qinghe Prison.

I feel like an explosion has gone off in my head.

I am escorted into the detention center’s office. As soon as I get inside, a prison guard snatches my glasses.

Without my glasses I am half-blind. I start to protest, but the guard kicks me and shouts: “Squat down and get your hands behind your head!”

I dodge the brunt of his blow, and start to say: “Please don’t hit me….” when he kicks me again, this time much harder, sending me staggering into the corner of the room.

The plainclothesman that escorted me here says with a laugh: “Did you really think you were going to a hotel? You might be alive when you arrive here, but there is no guarantee that you won’t leave a corpse!”