Much as reading in general can have an impact on readers’ interpretation of reality, reading translated works can similarly be a way of understanding the world, which then leads readers to act upon their newly gained sentiments and ideals. The large number of foreign literary works translated into Chinese at the beginning of the twentieth century, particularly translated love stories, had profound influence on Chinese readers’ perception of romance, marriage and life. Chinese readers, including common readers, writers and translators, were obsessed with reading translated love stories which shed light on the way romantic love was conceived and expressed in the West. They often took what they read in novels like La Dame aux Camélias and Immensee to be principles of love in real life, and some even followed the life paths of the protagonists. This phenomenon can be best contained using the term Bovarysm, defined by Jules de Gaultier as ‘the human ability to conceive of oneself as other than one is’.
Jane Qian Liu is Associate Professor in Translation and Chinese Studies. She completed her DPhil degree in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford and taught for four years at Beijing Normal University. She also taught modern and contemporary Chinese literature at the University of British Columbia before joining the University of Warwick.