This Bookworld conversation with novelist and poet Xiaolong QIU ranges widely, from translating T. S. ELIOT to the challenges of telling stories set in China. Host Karen CHRISTENSEN is known for publishing and writing about China, but also worked for Valerie Eliot, T. S. Eliot’s second wife, and has written about her. In the podcast, they discuss the complexities of translating poetry and how Qiu, an Eliot scholar and poet, came to write detective novels in English. Qiu’s fictional detective, Chief Inspector CHEN Cao, is also a translator of Eliot. In fact, the plot of Shanghai Redemption includes a book party for Inspector Chen’s new translation of Eliot (read the review in Publishers Weekly).

Beijing subway, December 2012

Christensen’s correspondence with Qiu began in 2013 when a colleague at the Association for Asian Studies introduced them by email. Qiu explained that translations of Eliot’s poems into Chinese started quite early. ZHAO Ruorui translated The Waste Land in the thirties, and Qiu translated a collection of Eliot poems in the eighties. The collection included “The Love Song of Prufrock,” The Waste Land, and Four Quartets and was influential among young Chinese poets and intellectuals at the time. More recently, an edition of Eliot’s works was published by Shanghai Yiwen Publishing House, including poems, plays, and criticisms.

“Intrigue in Chongqing,” Qiu Xiaolong, New York Times April 26, 2012 and “Q. and A.: Qiu Xiaolong on His Novel ‘Shanghai Redemption’”, Edward Wong, New York Times “Sinosphere” August 16, 2015.

Xiaolong QIU was born in Shanghai, where his novels are set, but has lived in St. Louis for over 30 years. He was working on a book about T. S. Eliot as a Ford Foundation Fellow in St. Louis in 1989, when the student rebellion in Tiananmen Square began. He stayed in the United States, started writing in English, and obtained a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Washington University. His detective thrillers, featuring Chief Inspector Chen of the Shanghai police, are amongst the best-known contemporary novels set in China, translated into over 20 languages. He has also published a collection of linked stories, Years of Red Dust (serialized in Le Monde), three collections of Chinese poetry in translation, and two volumes of his own poems. His latest novel is Becoming Inspector Chen.

Qiu’s website: