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Bei Dao

Translated by Jeffrey Yang

Cover of Sidetracks by Bei Dao
10% off
Categories: 21st Century, BAME, China, Chinese, Dual Language, Translation
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (178 pages)
(Due Jul 2024)
£14.99 £13.49
  • Description
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • Sidetracks, Bei Dao's first new collection in fifteen years, is also his first long poem and undoubtedly his magnum opus – the artistic culmination of a lifetime devoted to the renewal and reinvention of language. 'As a poet, I am always lost,' he once declared. Opening Sidetracks with a prologue of heavenly questions and following on with thirty-four cantos, the poem travels forward and backward along the divergent paths of the poet's wandering life. From his time as a Young Pioneer in Beijing, the poem roves through the years of exile living in six countries, back to the rural construction site where he worked during the Cultural Revolution, to the 'sunshine tablecloth' in his kitchen in Davis, California, and his emotional visit home after a thirteen-year separation ('the mother tongue has deepened my foreignness'). The various currents of our times rush into his lifelines, reconfigured through the 'vortex of experience' and the poet's encounters with friends, strangers and with other artists living and dead. He moves from place to place unable to return home.

    As the poet Michael Palmer noted: 'Bei Dao's work, in its rapid transitions, abrupt juxtapositions and frequent recurrence to open syntax evokes the un-speakability of the exile's condition. It is a poetry of explosive convergences, of submersions and unfixed boundaries, "amid languages".'
    Bei Dao
    ... read more
    Jeffrey Yang
    Jeffrey Yang is the author of the poetry books Line and Light ; Hey, Marfa ; Vanishing-Line ; and An Aquarium . He is the translator of Bei Dao’s autobiography City Gate, Open Up ; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo’s June Fourth Elegies ; Ahmatjan Osman’s Uyghurland, the Farthest Exile ... read more
    'A lyrical masterpiece.'

    Carol Muske-Dukes
    'Bei Dao is among the strongest poetic impressions of my lifetime. To me, his poems are the work of a genius, a genius of juxtaposing, of simplicity, of acceleration, of tunneling through emblem and image.'

    Michael Hofmann
    'As with stereograms (magic-eye art), if we look at them long enough, a three-dimensional view of Bei Dao’s itinerant life in exile comes in and out of focus. From Beijing to West Berlin, Copenhagen to Hong Kong, the narrative thrust of this collection zigzags through his lifetime, while the 34 cantos themselves (in Jeffrey Yang's propulsive translation) are a nebula of worldly experience.'
    Jack Hargreaves, China Book Review
    Praise for Bei Dao 'The language of Bei Dao's memoir, seamlessly translated by fellow poet Yang, is elegantly simple and guilelessly accessible....Winter white cabbage, vinyl records, pet rabbits, banned books, and first and last 'I love yous'€ provide intimate glimpses that 'open up'€ to reveal extraordinary, immediate testimony of challenges survived in a life intensely lived.'
    Booklist of City Gate, Open Up (US edition, published by New Directions)
       'This is a nuanced account of China in the era of the Cultural Revolution, seen through one young man'€s eyes. Since that young man became a poet, it is also beautifully textured, full of the sounds, sights, and scents of a Beijing that is no more.'
    Publishers Weekly of City Gate, Open Up (US edition, published by New Directions)
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