Tsung-Han Tsai (University of Tsukuba, Japan)


Tsung-Han Tsai is Assistant Professor at the University of Tsukuba, Japan. His work focuses on music and twentieth-century literature, particularly the relation between music and politics. He is author of E. M. Forster and Music (Cambridge, 2021) and co-editor (with Emma Sutton) of Twenty-first-century Readings of E. M. Forster’s Maurice (Liverpool, 2020). He has also published articles on Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, Humphrey Jennings, and life-writing.


A Passage to India in Taiwan: Translation, Politics, Modernisms

This paper examines two traditional Chinese translations of E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India published in Taiwan, exploring the implications of their different translational strategies for our understanding of Taiwan’s ongoing, and often conflicting, negotiation with colonial history and modernist aesthetics. One was translated by Tsang-To Chen and Shu-Ping Chang, published by Laureate Book in 1975; the other was translated by Ssu-I Li, published by Linking Books in 2017. In the former, the translators emphasize their fidelity to the original text, suggesting that by translating ‘literally’, their translation retains the ‘linguistic exquisiteness’ of Forster’s novel and re-creates its stylistic traits. The latter translation, in comparison, emphasizes readability: one of its reviews notes the flow and logic of its language, praising its ‘clear’ rendition of the novel’s complex human relationships.

This paper suggests that the differences between the two translations not only indicate changing tastes and market approaches but also reflect the shifts in the perception and applicability of ‘modernism’ as a category in Taiwan. These shifts, the paper would further suggest, epitomize the ways in which Taiwan carves out its national and cultural identity as a postcolonial country and an independent state. Through a discussion of how the two translations translate the end of the novel, the paper compares their different handlings of Forster’s language and imagery and examines the implications of their translational techniques and choices. How to feature the ‘modernism’ of Forster’s novel in translation, then, becomes a case of identity formation: it is fraught with historical reappraisals of Taiwan’s past, contingent on the country’s present, and reflective of its future trajectories. Considering the politics of translation, the paper explores the ideological potency and possibilities of modernisms for Taiwanese culture in a postcolonial era.