Forgive Me For Rambling

Neil Thomas reviews John Minford’s recorded seminars on Chinese literature

The translator John Minford personifies the quality by which he judges prose – its “generous spirit.” For two marvelous hours on Thursday mornings in late 2015, Professor Minford taught a class on Chinese literature at The Australian National University in Canberra, where he introduced his students (myself among them) to the characters and the worlds of China’s cultural tradition.

Hidden on an obscure university website, three of Minford’s six seminars survive. (A lecture series on similar themes that Minford gave at the Hang Seng Management College in Hong Kong is also available on YouTube.) Recorded at the Australian Center on China in the World, these sessions transport listeners from the present into a past that brims with vaster life, illuminating the tribulations and the revelations of ancient writers and their modern translators.


This Way, Gentlemen

Single-gender security lines at a Beijing train station – Neil Thomas

China boasts the world’s longest high-speed rail network. Its train stations, in kind, house probably the world’s lengthiest security lines. These lines are not genteel queues. Hundreds of anxious travellers, corralled by metal barriers that wind into a joyless maze, jockey for position in a passing eternity of squeeze, stress, and quite some sweat. I often arrive hours before my train is due to leave; such is my fear of getting stuck in line.

So I should have felt glad to save some time when, trudging through security at Beijing South Railway Station earlier this year, I encountered a sign I hadn’t seen before.