Abstract

This article traces how the vernacular romance “Heying lou” by Chinese writer Li Yu morphed into Théophile Gautier's novella “Le Pavillon sur l'eau.” The original story, first rendered into English by John Francis Davis under the title “The Shadow in the Water,” was further translated into French by Jean-Pierre Abel Rémusat as “L'Ombre dans l'eau”; it is upon this latter work that Gautier based his “Le Pavillon sur l'eau.” Drawing on a meticulous scrutiny of each author's input into this multilayered transmission, I argue that by artfully rewriting a seventeenth-century Chinese tale centered on polygamy in accordance with late romantic French aesthetics and by foreignizing his prose style, Gautier not only recovered the literary agency of the “Heying Lou” lost in the previous utilitarian translations, but also elevated Rémusat's rendering of the Chinese story from a marginal item in the sinological archive into a well-polished piece of world literature.

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