Yiran Yang

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Jie Guo


In 2012, a Chinese, Mo Yan 莫言, became the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature. It was the first time in China’s history; this is not because Mo Yan is better than other Chinese writers, or that he follows some Western writers like Gabriel García Márquez, but because he works with better translators, who make his stories captivating for Western readers, than whom his precursors work with. Even though Mo Yan sticks closely to dialect and culture in rural areas in northern China, his translators adjust his writings to an accessible form in another language. In order to understand why these translations make Mo Yan’s works popular in the Western world, this thesis focuses onMo Yan’s English translator, Howard Goldblatt, and studies his translation techniques. This thesis aims at a minor character, Zhang Kou 张扣, in one of Mo Yan’s understudied novels, The Garlic Ballads Tiantang suantai zhi ge 天堂蒜薹之歌. The novel received not as much scholarly attention as his Red Sorghum Clan Hong gaoliang jiazu 红高粱家 族, so scholarship of Zhang Kou is limited. By analogizing the Chinese and English version of the standby of the garlic riot Zhang Kou, both the writing style of Mo Yan and the translating features of Goldblatt are part of this discussion. With the analyses of Zhang Kou’s representation of the voice of both the author and the translator, Mo Yan’s original depictions of Zhang Kou contrast with Goldblatt’s rewriting of the counterparts; it reveals how the two voices, though articulated by the same character, are different. In this thesis, the introduction to Goldblatt’s translating techniques focuses on how he overcomes the barriers between the two languages and unites his own voice with that of Mo Yan. By concentrating on the transformation of Zhang Kou’s voice, this thesis argues that Goldblatt adapts Mo Yan’s voice to the English-speaking world rhetorically, culturally and ideologically, and that this is the reason why he makes Mo Yan’s writing popular in the West.


© 2019, Yiran Yang