ESSAY / TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION / In Praise of the Fuck-Up
PEN.org, October 2012. Featured as Recommended Reading in The Millions.
This little translator’s introduction to the coming-of-age novel Notes of a Crocodile was written in conjunction with the awarding of the 2012 PEN Translation Fund Grants. It appears along with an excerpt from the novel on the PEN American Center website.
Bad habits are often formed when one is young, which is why it’s important to give young people an antidote to the notion of failure before they acquire the crippling, adult sense of having something to lose. Books are good medicine in this sense. What makes Kerouac or Salinger timeless is not necessarily literary, but perhaps didactic: the fact that there is wisdom to be found at the fountain of youth, no matter what time one arrives. Of course, there is also a saintliness reserved for those authors who are able to make an interesting life story for themselves, and that order includes Qiu Miaojin.