Dylan Thomas in Chinese: Swansea’s poet to be translated into world’s most widely-spoken language

He is already one of the most widely-translated English language poets in the world, but now a selection of the poetry of Dylan Thomas is to be translated into Mandarin Chinese, the world’s most widely-spoken language.

Chinese poetry and translation expert Wu Fu Sheng is visiting Swansea to work on what will be the first major translation of Dylan Thomas into Chinese.

Professor Wu’s visit to Wales, his first,  is funded by the College of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University and the City and County of Swansea.   It gives him the opportunity to undertake some of the translation and is aimed at promoting the work of Dylan Thomas in China and at strengthening links between Swansea and China, in the poet’s centenary year. 

Wu Fu Sheng in Dylan Thomas studyProfessor Wu visited the poet’s birthplace in Swansea, where he read some short excerpts from Thomas’s poetry which he has just translated into Mandarin, including “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”.

Picture:  Professor Wu in the study at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Dylan Thomas's birthplace

Professor Wu studied and began his academic career at Nankai University in Tianjin in China.   He now works at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in the USA, where he is Professor of Languages and Literature and Director of the Confucius Institute.  He is interested in different literatures, and says that Thomas’s poetry presents intriguing issues for the translator.

•    Mandarin is the main language of China, spoken by around 1 billion people, 1 in 7 of the world’s population.  It is the language with the most native speakers in the world.

•    Swansea University Department of Languages now offers Mandarin for beginners as part of its degree in Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting
Dylan Thomas is already well-known internationally, especially in the USA, with former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter amongst his fans.   However, until now, there has been no major translation of the poet’s work in Chinese.    

Professor John Spurr, Head of the College of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Professor Wu to Swansea and Wales.  His work on Dylan’s poetry is a tribute to the global appeal of Swansea’s most famous poet.  

It chimes with the College’s expertise in translation, literature and languages – and, obviously, with the Dylan Thomas scholarship of Professor John Goodby and his colleagues in the Department of English.”  

Wu Fu Sheng at Dylan Thomas HouseProfessor John Goodby, of the Department of English at Swansea University, a world authority on the work of Dylan Thomas, said:

“Dylan Thomas is a poet who speaks to the present in a vivid way,   To the reading public he has always been an important poet.  His unique status as a cultural icon is part of what interests me.  

Thomas’s poetry was more translated than that of any other English language poet of the twentieth century apart from T. S. Eliot, and Dylan Thomas societies flourish as far afield as the USA, Canada, Japan, Poland and Australia.”

Dylan Thomas Councillor David Phillips, Swansea Council Leader, said:

“Dylan Thomas is Swansea’s most famous son. His life, work and legacy have contributed a huge amount not just to putting Swansea on the map in the UK, but across the rest of the world too. This is why we do so much to promote our links with him and have arranged a huge variety of high-quality cultural events and activities this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth.

“Visitors to Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Centre over the last year have come from as far afield as Brazil, New Zealand and China, and we have many Chinese students studying at Swansea University. The translation of Dylan’s works into Mandarin will keep extend his legacy in China and encourage even more Chinese people than ever to visit Swansea and experience the city that nurtured and inspired him.

This will help further raise Swansea’s profile as a visitor-friendly city of culture in the wake of a recent announcement that we’ve been awarded a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to upgrade the city’s permanent Dylan Thomas exhibition and put a community outreach programme in place.”

Prof Wu will also be reading at a public event on Tues 6th May (8 pm) at Noah’s Yard, 38 Uplands Crescent, Swansea.  

Swansea University’s course in Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting, which allows students to choose Mandarin as an option has seen a 150% jump in applications over the past year