A new expanded edition of the classic study of translation, finally back in print
The difficulty (and necessity) of translation is concisely described in Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, a close reading of different translations of a single poem from the Tang Dynasty—from a transliteration to Kenneth Rexroth’s loose interpretation. As Octavio Paz writes in the afterword, “Eliot Weinberger’s commentary on the successive translations of Wang Wei’s little poem illustrates, with succinct clarity, not only the evolution of the art of translation in the modern period but at the same time the changes in poetic sensibility.”
About the Author
Eliot Weinberger’s books of literary essays include Karmic Traces, An Elemental Thing, The Ghosts of Birds, and Angels & Saints. His political writings are collected in What I Heard About Iraq and What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles. The author of a study of Chinese poetry translation, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, he is a translator of the poetry of Bei Dao and the editor of The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry. He was formerly the general editor of the series Calligrams: Writings from and on China and the literary editor of the Murty Classical Library of India. Among his many translations of Latin American poetry and prose are The Poems of Octavio Paz, Paz’s In Light of India, Vicente Huidobro’s Altazor, Xavier Villaurrutia’s Nostalgiafor Death, and Jorge Luis Borges’ Seven Nights and Selected Non-Fictions. He has been publishing with New Directions since 1975.
Octavio Paz (1914-1998) was born in Mexico City. He wrote many volumes of poetry, as well as a prolific body of remarkable works of nonfiction on subjects as varied as poetics, literary and art criticism, politics, culture, and Mexican history. He was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 1977, the Cervantes Prize in 1981, and the Neustadt Prize in 1982. He received the German Peace Prize for his political work, and finally, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.
Essential reading for anyone interested in translation. — M. A. Orthofer - Complete Review
There is a great profusion of Chinese poetry in English, and this fact is significant. It suggests that, despite all the barriers, this poetry does communicate, even urgently, to modern Western readers. Both the difficulty and the urgency are elegantly demonstrated in Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei. Weinberger collates and comments on a series of translations of Wang Wei’s famous poem ‘Deer Park,’ allowing the reader to see how even this brief poem—twenty characters, in four lines—contains endless shades of meaning and implication.
— Adam Kirsch - The New Republic
Weinberger’s sensitivity to words and gift for clear thinking underlie nearly every page in Nineteen Ways...and he writes with erudition and charm. He sees lines of Wang Wei’s poems as 'both universal and immediate,' and he sees much else in human cultures in that same spirit, which I think is wonderful.
— Perry Link - The New York Review of Books
Nineteen cheers to New Directions for reissuing Eliot Weinberger's Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, first published in 1987 and hard to find since then. In this tiny volume, Weinberger examines nineteen different translations of a classic four-line poem by the eighth-century poet Wang Wei. The result is the best primer on translation...also the funniest and most impatient.
— Lorin Stein - The Paris Review
Weinberger is like an ancient Chinese zither player, tuning lonely in the mountain overlooking the world. — Bei Dao