three Chinese classics from the NYRB’s new Calligram line

DoblinThreeLEapsofWangLun-205x300Steve Donoghue at Open Letters Monthly:

The new “Calligrams” imprint of the deservedly popular New York Review of Books paperback reprint line (produced in conjunction with the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press) devotes itself to “writings from and on China,” which is both succinct and staggering as mission summaries go. Chinese literature has one of the longest histories in the world; Chinese writers and poets and scholars were parsing fine points of rhetoric and prosody long before the Greeks had ever heard the song of Troy, and they were hotly debating critical fine points a millennium before the monks of Ireland wrote their first playful erotica with ice-cold fingers. The outflow has continued almost unabated for three thousand years, with major works spawning minor works and minor works spawning commentaries and the major commentaries spawning commentaries of their own. It’s an immense and frighteningly tangled bookish heritage.

Any new series dedicated to placing that heritage before a modern Western audience (and particularly the notoriously monoglot and incurious reading public of the United States) faces a task comparable to presenting the wealth of English literature by taking three pages at random from the magisterial Oxford Anthology of English Literature in the great two-volume edition edited by Frank Kermode, John Hollander, Harold Bloom, Martin Price, J. B. Trapp, and Lionel Trilling.

more here.