Chinese poet Bei Dao and essayist and translator Eliot Weinberger will share the stage in a poetry@mit presentation on Thursday, April 12 at 7pm in Rm 6-120.
Bei Dao, the pen name for Zhao Zhenkai, is a leading Chinese-language poet and a frequent nominee for the Nobel Prize in literature over the past decade. He will read in Chinese from his current book Unlock--Poems by Bei Dao, followed by Mr. Weinberger's English translations.
Mr. Weinberger will also read from his latest work, Karmic Traces, a collection of 24 essays about his travels from Iceland to India to the Amazon, as well as imagined voyages on a 17th-century Danish ship bound for India.
Born in 1949 in Beijing, Bei Dao assumed international political stature in February 1989 when he wrote and circulated a request that the government of China move towards a new openness. Away from home during the demonstrations in June 1989, he is now unable for political reasons to return. Bei Dao is the author of The August Sleepwalker, Forms of Distance, Landscape Over Zero, Unlock and a book of essays entitled Blue House. He is currently the Lois Wilson Mackey Poet in Residence at Beloit College in Wisconsin.
"To categorize Bei Dao as merely an exile or dissident is to miss the point," wrote Andrew Ervin in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Bei Dao is simply a poet. There's no greater threat to totalitarianism than individuality, and few living writers possess a voice as elegant as that heard in Unlock."
As a translator, essayist and editor, Mr. Weinberger has published several collections of nonfiction and translated the works of numerous authors, notably Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges. In 1992, he was named the first recipient of the PEN/Kolovakos Award for the promotion of Hispanic literature in the United States. His essays regularly appear in translation throughout Europe and Latin America.
"What's particular about Weinberger's writing is that he has cultivated a modernist sensibility without falling prey to... prejudice and elitism," wrote John Palattella for the Boston Review. "His work as a translator and his interest in culturally hybrid poems and essays have bred in him a rare equanimity."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2001.