Dreaming of Cydalise: Chimeras, disfiguration, translation

Dinu Luca*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay argues that translation, next to other kinds of language ferrying, can be profitably seen as remedial work. To make this point, I discuss five attempts at poetising ‘Cydalise’, a chimera dreamed into being by Théophile Gautier (1811–1872). After introducing it, I investigate three of Gautier's failed textualisations of this chimera and the resulting early tokens of literary chinoiserie and literary pastel. I then explore the disfigurations Cydalise suffers at the hands of Romanian writer Vasile Alecsandri (1821–1890) as he appropriates, refashions and explodes chinoiserie (and distorts pastel) in his endeavour to capture Gautier's ‘dream in its reality’. I next trace the translatorial moves Chinese poet Shao Xunmei (1906–1968) enacts finally to transport Cydalise into text, as he also pays discreet homage to the powers of translation. I conclude by giving firmer contours to the hypertextual landscape I imagine, which equally welcomes originals, translations and everything in between.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • chinoiserie
  • Shao Xunmei
  • Théophile Gautier
  • translation
  • Vasile Alecsandri

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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