February 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Fennigen de Shouling Ye

How is your Mandarin?

Fennigen de Shouling Ye, translates to Finnegans Wake, the title of the classic novel from 1939 by James Joyce.

The classic novel from 1939... and current bestseller in China.

The Guardian reported Tuesday that Joyce's famous (and famously difficult) novel is currently enjoying an entirely unexpected popularity in China.  Dai Congrung, a professor of literature at Fudan University in Shanghai, produced the Mandarin translation of the first third of Finnegans Wake as "a labor of love." She had no idea that she was sitting on a bestseller.  While it took eight years to translate the first third, Dai plans to continue translating the next two parts of Finnegans Wake over the coming years.

Supported by a massive billboard campaign from the Chinese publisher, sales of Fennigen de Shouling Ye took off shortly after its publication in January.  Dai believes the book may be resonating with Chinese readers because of its strong and startling prose and its cyclical view of history.

Dai has attempted to remain faithful to the grammatical creativity of the original.  She said to The Guardian, "For example, there was a phrase in Finnegans Wake that said 'sputtering hand', which might mean shaky. If I translated it as 'shaky hand', that would be OK - in Chinese it's a good sentence. However, I just translated it as 'sputtering hand'. Sputtering and hand cannot be put together in Chinese grammar, but I put the two together anyway."

So, all of you Joyce collectors out there have another volume to add to your shelves: Fennigen de Shouling Ye, Part the First.