Brief bio sketch

Lloyd Haft (1946- ) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA and lived as a boy in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Kansas. In 1968 he graduated from Harvard College and went to Leiden, The Netherlands for graduate study in Chinese (M. A. 1973, Ph. D. 1981). From 1973 to 2004 he taught Chinese language and literature, mostly poetry, at Leiden. His sinological publications include Pien Chih-lin: A Study in Modern Chinese Poetry (1983/2011; published in Chinese translation as 发现卞之琳: 一位西方学者的探索之旅 in 2010) and Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (2006).



He has translated extensively into English from the Dutch of Herman Gorter and Willem Hussem, and from the Chinese of various poets including Lo Fu, Yang Lingye, Bian Zhilin and Zhou Mengdie.



Since the 1980s he has also been active as a poet writing in Dutch and English. He was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his 1993 bilingual volume Atlantis and the Ida Gerhardt Prize for his 2003 Dutch free-verse readings of the Psalms (republished by Uitgeverij Vesuvius in 2011). His most recent book of poems (in Dutch) is Deze poelen, deze geest (2008). His newer poems are published (some republished) on this blog.



After early retirement in 2004, for a number of years Lloyd Haft spent much of his time in Taiwan with his wife Katie Su. In addition to writing and translating, his interests include Song-dynasty philosophy and taiji quan. He sings in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.



Saturday, March 5, 2011

On the ‘difficulty’ of the Chinese language


(Scraps from a Sinological Scrapbook 漢齋閒情異誌, fragment 1)

One often hears it said that Chinese is ‘difficult’ to learn. This never fails to amaze me. I have been involved with, struggling with, wrestling with, exasperated with, and at my wits’ end with Chinese for almost 44 years now, and I can truly say that in all that time, I have never found it in the least difficult. Learning Chinese isn’t at all ‘difficult’ – it’s simply impossible!
         I remember once many years ago when my colleague the Polish sinologist Zbigniew Słupski was asked by a British editor how much time he would realistically need to write a decent scholarly article on one of the great traditional Chinese novels. Zbigniew took a sip of vodka, peered meditatively into the distance, and said: ‘Three lifetimes. One to learn Chinese, one to read the whole novel, and one to write and revise the article.’  

March 5, 2011