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Han Bo’s “Chinese Eastern Railway” | 韩博《中东铁路》

My translation of Shanghai-based poet Han Bo’s nine-poem cycle 《中东铁路》 is up at the Berlin-based lyrikline, accompanying German translations by Daniel Bayerstorfer, Peiyao Chang and Lea Schneider. The poems are densely allusive, experimental and rooted in the complex layered history of the historic Chinese Eastern Railway running through Manchuria (contemporary Dongbei and Inner Mongolia and, in particular, the old Russian frontier metropolis of Harbin).

They’re travel poems of a kind: Han Bo wrote them while visiting the area his parents lived in during China’s post-war years of ideological and economic upheavals. They’re also ecologically minded meditations on the transformation of the landscape by successive generations of human populations, with a focus on the railroad’s history as a tool of Russian (and subsequently Japanese) imperial ambitions, wartime strategic value, and oil-hungry post-war PRC industrialization — a history of the modern Chinese state, Chinese modernity, and the lives lived, broken, and lost among all the geopolitical, military, and economic machinations.

I’ll be working to bring out a small-batch chapbook with notes and a short introductory essay later in the year via Seaweed Salad Editions (book design: Monika Lin). In the meantime, the poems are up at lyrikline (an absolutely fantastic resource for world poetries), complete with recordings of Han Bo himself reading the originals.

In addition to lyrikline, thanks go out to Zheng Zhang, Andrea Lingenfelter and Matt Turner for critical readings of early drafts of the translations.


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1933 Foreign Affairs piece on the CER and the trouble it bred…


Han Bo poetry | tranlsation David Perry |