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Travels through the Other: Ghassan Kanafani’s The Sun Rise in Asia as Solidarity-Building Translation
“Across the shield of wind,” Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani writes in his 1965 travelogue, The Sun Rise in Asia (ثم أشرقت آسيا), “we will enter the richest, largest, most curious world. The most ancient world, where the sound of human footsteps spread out from furthest point in history that people can remember.” (Kanafani, 2015) This “ancient” and “curious” world is China, which he visited twice (1965, 1966) and which significantly inspired his literary writing and political thought. Kanafani (1936-1972) is perhaps the most important literary figure in Palestinian resistance literature, a novelist, playwright, and journalist and the spokesperson for the PFLP until his assassination by Mosad in 1972. In 1965 he was invited to attend the ceremony for the sixteenth anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. He also visited India on this trip and published an account of his travels upon his return to Palestine, which has largely been ignored by previous studies of his work despite emphasising the anti-colonial struggle in China and India and its similarities to the Palestinian cause. Kanafai’s The Sun Rise in Asia provides an important case study to explore how Kanafani envision a Palesitian-Chinese solidary through his romanization about communist China and his admiration toward Mao Tse Dung, the Chinese communist revolutionary. This paper will provide a close reading of the Chinese section of The Sun Rise in Asia and argue for it as a cultural translation, rather than a purely linguistic one. I will explore why it is important to consider cultural translation when we consider translation as an act of solidarity, and in doing so will consider what it means that this particular instance of cultural translation, despite being used for solidarity-building, contains vestiges of the very colonial/Orientalist thought against which that solidarity is being built.
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