A Metonymic Translation: Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle

by Liu Xiaoqing

Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1944) was written on the basis of Li Xingdao’s Hui Lan Ji (The Story of the Circle of the Chalk) for the American audience. In this paper, I propose that Brecht assumed the role of translator in his writing. With Tymoczko’s metonymic translation theory as my theoretical framework, I argue that Brecht partially translated Li’s play and the Chinese classical poetics and encoded characteristics of American performing arts in his creation; at the same time, he deliberately departed from Li’s play and resisted the American system to assert his poetics and ideology –epic theatre, Marxism, and anti-fascism. In this way, Brecht not only made Li’s play live on in the modern West but also reinterpreted the story of two mothers claiming one child with his new idea of mother and motherhood and law and justice. As an unconventional translation, Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle provides a new look at writing and rewriting as translating and also makes an impact on American culture and society as a piece of translated literature.

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