London, J. (1910) The Unparalleled Invasion

unparalleled_01Jack London (1910) The Unparalleled Invasion

Under the influence of Japan, China modernizes and undergoes its own version of the Meiji Reforms in the 1910s. In 1922, China breaks away from Japan and fights a brief war that culminates in the Chinese annexation of the Japanese possessions of Korea, Formosa, and Manchuria. Over the next half century, China’s population steadily grows, and eventually migration overwhelms European colonies in Asia. The United States and the other Western powers launch a biological warfare campaign against China, resulting in the destruction of China’s population, the few survivors of the plague being killed out of hand by European and American troops. China is then colonized by the Western powers. This opens the way to a joyous epoch of “splendid mechanical, intellectual, and art output”. [Wikipedia]

For a view on the historical background of the “Yellow Peril” see G.G. Rupert.

Essays on London:

This essay examines Jack London’s 1910 short story “The Unparalleled Invasion” as a fantasy of racist nationalism (borrowing from his earlier “Yellow Peril” report from the Russo-Japanese War). London, like other American progressives of the early 20th century, looked to the emerging science of genetics and its implications for eugenicist technologies, finding both a frightening futuristic vision of race war fought by reproduction and a modestly consoling “scientific” defense of white supremacy……. In 1910, McClure’s Magazine published Jack London’s “The Unparalleled Invasion,” a strange little fantasy apparently written in 1907 which he himself described bemusedly in his correspondence as “a freak short story, ” one of several “future stunts” that he was working out, and “an interesting pseudo-scientific yarn.”  Set mainly in 1976, but framed as retrospective history written from some still later date, it describes the West’s late-twentieth-century recognition of China ‘s enormous population and potential for world domination, and its drastic resolution to this crisis: an “unparalleled invasion” of biological weaponry. resulting in the Chinese people’s complete annihilation. [John N. Swift (2002)  ‘Jack London’s “The Unparalleled Invasion”: Germ Warfare, Eugenics, and Cultural Hygiene’, American Literary Realism, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Fall, 2002), pp. 59-7]

For eighty years, since its publication in 1910, Jack London’s “The Unparalleled Invasion” has been regarded as an expression of his anti-Oriental racism. Calder-Marshall’s estimate of it, that it “was a variation of the theme of ‘the Yellow Peril,’ a common nightmare of the first decade of this century,” appears to be generally accepted. While this view may be justified by reference to London’s previous racist attitudes, it does not take into sufficient account the deep and dramatic changes in his perspectives that occurred almost abruptly during the last decade of his life, when he wrote this story. Our view of him is still distorted by the popular stereotype we have of him as the he-man writer of the Yukon. Recent scholarship, however, now recognizes that London continued to grow both in literary skill and in philosophy until his death. This new information makes possible a parallax correction of our view of “The Unparalleled Invasion” so that we may see it as a story more concerned with humanity than with fears of “the Yellow Peril” or with notions of white supremacy.[Lawrence I. Berkove (1992) ‘A Parallax Correction in London’s “The Unparalleled Invasion” ‘, American Literary Realism, 1870-1910, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter, 1992), pp. 33-39]

There is discussion of London’s views on the “Yellow Peril” at asian-studies.org.

A view of Chinese translations of London’s work is at: https://www.academia.edu/3892236/Jack_London_Anti-Chinese_Racism_and_Chinese_Translation

The translation history of Jack London into Chinese illustrates how translation publishing obscures and conceals even while opening literary exchange between language cultures. This paper begins with a discussion of London’s short story “The Unparalleled Invasion” in order to frame questions of how Chinese-language introductions communicate knowledge about London’s anti-Chinese attitudes to readers. A following section surveys 104 known Chinese-language translation editions of London published from 1935-2011 and reviews their ideological approaches to London before and after the Cultural Revolution. Conceptual mapping finds negligible consideration of London’s racial attitudes. The next section reviews Chinese-language critical literature on London in order to compare its discussion with that found in translation introductions. This critical literature contains ample discussion of London’s white supremacism. A final section addresses how structural censorships of ideology and publishing market forces shape the discursive discrepancy between translation editions and critical literature.

 

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