Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
The Translatability of Revolution

The Translatability of Revolution

Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture

Pu Wang

ISBN 9780674987180

Publication date: 08/06/2018

The first comprehensive study of the lifework of Guo Moruo (1892–1978) in English, this book explores the dynamics of translation, revolution, and historical imagination in twentieth-century Chinese culture. Guo was a romantic writer who eventually became Mao Zedong’s last poetic interlocutor; a Marxist historian who evolved into the inaugural president of China’s Academy of Sciences; and a leftist politician who devoted almost three decades to translating Goethe’s Faust. His career, embedded in China’s revolutionary century, has generated more controversy than admiration. Recent scholarship has scarcely treated his oeuvre as a whole, much less touched upon his role as a translator.

Leaping between different genres of Guo’s works, and engaging many other writers’ texts, The Translatability of Revolution confronts two issues of revolutionary cultural politics: translation and historical interpretation. Part 1 focuses on the translingual making of China’s revolutionary culture, especially Guo’s translation of Faust as a “development of Zeitgeist.” Part 2 deals with Guo’s rewritings of antiquity in lyrical, dramatic, and historiographical-paleographical forms, including his vernacular translation of classical Chinese poetry. Interrogating the relationship between translation and historical imagination—within revolutionary cultural practice—this book finds a transcoding of different historical conjunctures into “now-time,” saturated with possibilities and tensions.


  • The Translatability of Revolution brings together Guo Moruo’s poetry, dramas, personal essays, and theoretical and polemical writings to present the most sophisticated and far-ranging study in English of this author and his works. Scholars and students of Chinese literature and history, Japanese studies, comparative literature, and translation will all benefit from Pu Wang’s discussion of Guo’s translingual creation of a new poetic subject and from many other insights found in this study.

    —Michael Gibbs Hill, College of William & Mary


  • Pu Wang is Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature and the Helaine and Alvin Allen Chair in Literature at Brandeis University.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center