The Millions

A Glimpse into a Different World: The Millions Interviews Bruce Humes

Translator and blogger Bruce Humes has worked to advance global interest in borderland fiction from China, often spotlighting voices from Altaic cultural perspectives. This work began with his English translation of Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian, a novel about the Tungusic-speaking Evenki.

Earlier in his career, Humes translated literature reflecting China’s mainstream urban culture. His work on the novel Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui, published in English in 2001 and a bestseller in Hong Kong and Singapore, is a notable example. The original novel was banned in the People’s Republic of China not simply for what was then considered its shockingly bold depictions of sexual acts, but because Hui was the first female author to unabashedly detail the protagonist’s experience—orgasms and all—from the woman’s point of view.

More recently, Humes took an interest in Xinjiang, a huge autonomous region in westernmost China, long populated by a variety of ethnicities including Turkic peoples, Mongols, and Han. Since the Urumqi riots in 2009, a series of crackdowns began, aimed at diluting religious practice and snuffing out any hint of separatism. In August of last year, the United Nations reported that more than a million Uighur Muslims now endure mass incarceration and are undergoing forcibly administered “re-education” programs. The infrastructure, largely constructed with great haste during 2017 and 2018, comprises what is now arguably a

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