I publish a newsletter called Modality Irrealis on Substack. You can sign up to get emails delivered to your inbox using the form below. Please visit Substack to browse the full archive.

Recent Issues

  • How we create narratives of ourselves
  • I came across the video below of Uyghur musicians on Twitter and thought I’d translate the Chinese in the caption to share its powerful message: We are Uyghurs, our muqams will endure for millennia;We will not disappear, we will continue dreaming of autonomy;
  • I woke up to the kind of orange sunlight that signals there are wildfires nearby. There’s one raging over the mountains right now. But somehow, the apocalyptic feel of it is comforting to me. When I was in Ohio for grad school, there was a single day when I experienced the same kind of sunlight, […]
  • I’ve spoken on many panels about craft, identity, and representation. Inevitably, when the moderator opens the discussion up for questions from the audience, the same kinds of comments come up over and over again: As a White person, is it okay for me to write a book from the point of view of a Chinese […]
  • There's no quick fix for a persistent problem.
  • Back in March, Premee Mohamed shared a favorite sonnet by Jorge Luis Borges, but lamented that their rhythm and rhyme schemes usually aren’t preserved in English translations. So, of course, I had to make an attempt myself at a translation that’s strict on meter and rhyme.
  • 閱讀中文版。阅读中文版。 English translation of speech given at NYU in 2017 follows. Friends: My name is Chen Nianxi. I was born in a small town on the southern side of the Qinling mountains in northwest China. That area continues to be the most impoverished part of China today. My one-and-a-half-year-old son had just begun to babble […]
  • Translating voice with an example from Classical Chinese poetry
  • I recently finished translating one of Liu Cixin’s short stories, 《微观尽头》, or “End of the Microcosmos.” It’s a very short story, only 2,400 words, about what kind of surprising conclusions we might be able to draw from Large Hadron Collider experiments. Among those witnessing the story’s central experiment are the chief engineer at the research […]
  • My recent and upcoming appearances.