Tag Archives: translation

An identity swap for the Chinese Murakami

Murakami Haruki’s popularity in mainland China is due in no small part to Lin Shaohua (林少华), who has produced 33 volumes of translations into Chinese over the course of two decades, beginning with Norwegian Wood in 1989. With What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (当我谈跑步时,我谈些什么), Lin was passed over in favor of Shi Xiaowei (施小炜), a relative unknown who just last week was revealed to be the translator of Murakami’s latest work, 1Q84 (the mainland edition, that is: a Taiwan edition translated by Lai Mingzhu has been out since November).

The Southern Metropolis Daily‘s Sunday book review section (April 25) included a short article based around a conversation held on Sina’s microblog host when an earlier SMD report announcing the translation’s upcoming release was linked by Tan Shanshan.

Some quotes:

Atage: “I read for a decade before I realized I was reading Lin Haruki, not Murakami Haruki, and that’s the shame of it.”

Tan Shanshan: “Actually, it’s Lin Haruki that lots of people like.”

Lao Yao: “The new translator can’t compare to Lin Shaohua. Changing a decade-long reading habit is killing me.”

Huang Yuning of Shanghai Translation Publishing House: “The scariest thing is that lots of people, including those who don’t read Japanese and those who don’t really read Murakami, join in the talk of who is more ‘faithful’ and who has a better feel for the language. The question of ‘faithfulness,’ of familiarization versus alienation, is something that translation theory has a hard time working out, so why are you so easily convinced? Commercialism is understandable, controversy is understandable. Out of commercial aims, like for Running, to attack the original translator all over the press, that’s just….”

Perhaps Lin identified too much with the author. He has been quoted as saying, “When I’m not translating Murakami, after a few days I feel uncomfortable” and “When Murakami says half a sentence, I know what he’ll say in the second half.”

See also: Tim Parks in The Guardian: Why translators deserve some credit. And a review of Edith Grossman’s Why Translation Matters at Quarterly Conversation which quotes this paragraph:

One of the brightest students in a seminar I taught recently asked whether, in The Autumn of the Patriarch, we were reading Rabassa or Garcia Marquez. My first, unthinking response was “Rabassa, of course,” and then a beat later, I added, “and Garcia Marquez.” The ensuing discussion of how difficult it is to separate the two, and what it meant to us as readers, writers, and critics to make the attempt, was one of the liveliest and most engrossing we had that semester.

Image from Golden Book.

Search the Hong Kong Film Archive

Hibiscus Town results

search results

The Hong Kong Film Archive’s search tool is an invaluable resource when you’re faced with the task of translating movie titles that may not be well-known enough (or involve enough Internet-savvy westerners) to be listed in the Internet Movie Database. It’s also great for finding out the standard English names of tiny production companies and major production staff, as well as Chinese translations of foreign movie titles.

After spending hours combing the Internet for obscure movie titles and common transliterations of the names of particular crew members for use in director bios and other festival materials, this will be the first place I’ll look from now on. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great starting place.

Realism and Chinese literature

From The Spell of Realism in Chinese Literature by Chen Xiwo:

I am indeed fully aware that a completely objective recognition of the facts is difficult. Any description of facts cannot avoid being colored by subjectivity. But the so-called “typical” is determined according to a pre-determined object. A typical character, for example, is “a representative of a particular class and inclination” and “a representative of the particular thinking of his age.” Why does he represent this? Because the most important social relationships are gathered in his person. There is a basis for this belief: the world in which we live is an organic whole, and it has a center. There is reason to doubt this belief, for it inevitably puts constraints onto thinking. Besides, literature itself has the perogative to fictionalize. Whatever criticism was leveled at Yu Hua’s Brothers, practically all of it revolved around “reality.” But in fact, the problem with Brothers wasn’t that it wasn’t real, but that it tried too much to be real and in doing so became a model, an imitation of reality. Strive as he might, the writer simply couldn’t take flight. The author ought to have boldy cast off from reality and let literature drift upward.

Chen Xiwo is working with Engels’ definition of realism: “Realism, to my mind, implies, besides truth of detail, the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances.”

A taxonomy of Chinese blog posts

From Yuyiwang’s blog:

Commonly-observed forms of online writing

  1. The Annie Baobei (安妮宝贝体). The characteristics of this form are: clusters of short sentences, three or four to a paragraph. Lots of adverbials and adjectives in a lucid context, it’s basically one person talking to herself. Frequently appearing props: flowers, grass, plants, and children, and they’re all pretty clean, aesthetically pleasing, and lushly detailed. On average, each paragraph contains what appears to be a sentence of incisive criticism. There may be an emotional object, such as a man named Lin or Shen, but this is nothing more than mirror to reflect light back on oneself. This type of writing is typically short, as the writer lacks a breadth of knowledge or substantive details and has no concern for the people around her. Information content is low and seldom generates conversation.
  2. The Shu Yi (亦舒体). A cold, detached perspective that feigns having seen it all. “She” is written “伊”, and 吧 is written “罢了.” Here too, short sentences predominate, and they’re decisive declarative sentences. Life experience, with a slightly pedagogical attitude, but in my own experience, this form is mostly written by the naive. The intelligence of the language is just a pauper’s wedding — borrowed pageantry. I’m generally fairly well-disposed toward girls who write in the Shu Yi form. It emphasizes reason, where the Annie stresses feelings. However, nothing should be taken too far. Too much argument is like a mouthful of wax; too much emotion is like choking on words.Also: These two forms, with their short sentences and frequent paragraph changes, belong to the sprinters. Clever sentences cluster so thickly it’s fatiguing, and these end up sounding long-winded if they get too long. They usually shouldn’t exceed 1,500 characters.
  3. The Eileen (爱玲体). Similar to the Shu Yi, but there’s a little more body to the writing. Arguments are layered, and articles are usually divided into parts. Qiqi’s early criticism was a little like a relaxed version of the Eileen: leisurely and lucid without giving offense. I quite liked it. This style of writing is trenchant, rich in information, and can be extended to more than 2,000 characters.
  4. The Cartoon (卡通体). Sarcasm delivered in a childish tone. Simple, short language with few adjectives and adverbs but lots of “Yee,” “Yow,” and “Oh.” Certain individuals have found great success with this form. The greatest difficulty with baby-faced writing is the same as when a child actor attempts an image change. It’s innocent and cute when you’re twenty, but if you’re still affecting the intonation of a child when you’re thirty, people begin to suspect that you’re simply childish. So when I saw Annie Inoh’s relationship problems I felt I could relax a bit, because it felt much more natural than seeing her in a tiered dress at thirty-six.
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