See How She Creates Light: On Translating Liu Xia
I was struck by one of the poems Liu Xia released a few days before her husband, Liu Xiaobo, died of cancer as a political prisoner in China. One line in particular hovered in my dreams until one morning I woke up with this translation: “(I wish that I, astonished, would glow) my body / in full bloom of light for you.” I wrote it down quickly: my body in full bloom of light for you. Liu Xia foresaw herself saying goodbye to Liu Xiaobo by casting a thousand beams of light as he set off on the “Road to Darkness” alone. I’ve revised other parts of the poem many times but never changed a word in this: my body / in full bloom of light for you. The Chinese original is actually much shorter, “light blooms” literally, but the action of blooming seems to be repeating like a slow-motion scene. Now that I look at the poem again (in her handwriting), I’m tempted to use “burst into light,” but the light initially came to me in the form of flowers as Liu Xia used the verb “bloom,” an unusual word for grieving, but it’s exactly this word that brought tears to me again and again.
Continue to read the full piece and Liu Xia’s poems and art work at WLT