It is amazing to me how quickly two white males—Michael Wiegers, editor of Copper Canyon Press, and John Balaban, translator of Ho Xuan Huong’s Spring Essence [Copper Canyon Press, 2000]—have scurried to the defense of a third white male, Joseph Bednarik, who is the marketing and sales director of the same press. They apparently felt that their hapless colleague was being unfairly maligned by just one Asian American woman poet, Marilyn Chin, who was simply responding to an insult hurled at her person.
None of these men is an expert in Nôm scholarship or in Classical Chinese. They have had to refer to outside sources and base their arguments on comparison translations. They acknowledge that spoken Vietnamese is written in Classical Chinese ideographs but are unschooled in either language. They seem not to be aware that the Chinese ideographs are not only the phonetic transcriptions of the spoken Vietnamese but also hints at the meanings. How then are they qualified to question Chin’s qualifications as a translator?
Their motives are suspect and reek of marketing aggression. I bet they’re afraid Chin just might come out with a book that is better than theirs.