22 December 2005

胡适:爱情与痛苦 // Hu Shi: Love and Suffering

I'm having trouble finding his books in Beijing bookstores.  Aside from a few selected essay collections, I'm not finding very much at all.  Am I just looking in the wrong sections? 

This short piece was published 29 June 1919 in Weekly Criticisms (《每周评论》) number 28. 

In Weekly Criticisms issue number 25, my friend Chen DuXiu (陈独秀) cited me saying, "The price of love** is suffering, you must bear the suffering if you are to love***."  He also added his evaluation, saying, "I think that this doesn't just apply to romantic love, but also a love of your country or to a love of truth."  Three days after these words were published, he was taken away by the Beijing Police.  He's still at the police station after more than fifteen days.  We want to say to him, "The reward to loving your country or loving truth is suffering, to love your country or to love truth necessitates that you bear the suffering."

**爱情 here refers to romantic love.
***I had a small problem here with the end of the sentence.  The original is "爱情的方法是要忍得住痛苦", if anyone has a suggestion for a better translation, please let me know.

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15 December 2005

dem blogger in dem tranzlashunal whatsit

As I am currently busy with graduate school miscellanea (i.e.  I write, I panic, I write some more, I sleep on it, I contemplate drinking, I go back to writing), I have had little time to find other articles and literature to translate.  I am definitely picking up the pace after the Crunch ends, and hopefully I'll do a little more damage to my film translation project.  《五朵金花》, if I ever manage to finish 《刘三姐》.  This second film is going to be a greater challenge, because the songs in it don't have subtitles.  My ability to decipher regional accents is subpar, and more so when the lyrics are indistinguishable from a mash of sounds.

I'll save my ranting re: "plot points that involve stupidly not finding out all facts before making snap decisions" to another entry, for possibly another blog.

I consider myself a fairly literal translator, as in, I'll try my best to preserve sentence and line structure, providing literal translations instead of substituting idioms.  This works for the news, but I run into a fair bit of problem when it comes to translating literature and film.  For example, I've contemplated doing a new translation of "Deng Ji" (literally "Registration", a short novella about the perils of a free marriage in a newly 'liberated' China - meaning in the 50s).  The style is very folksy and resembles more an oral tale with all the tangents and colloquial expressions.  Translating it is a mash of stylistic decisions that have me shuddering. 

First, I'd have to decide whether to retain the folksy style of telling it - whether it's even possible in English without regionalizing it (dem brer rabbit is in de brer patch, now don't that beatall?). 

Second, how many footnotes am I going to need in order to clarify all points in a story?  We read Jane Austen today, often without any clarification, but then Jane's sore-throat (which, in those days, MAY refer to something far more serious than the name indicates, http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pptopics.html#sorethroat) wouldn't have been as alarming to us as it might have been to Elizabeth.  Today, anime subtitlers regularly have explanatory notes before and during episodes to explain intricacies of let's say, O-bon, but I can't break out of a story's narrative and give a discourse on the Chinese village government structure.  What to do?  Do I leave it unexplained (an option which I loathe, personally), do I find some equivalent in English, or do I go for broke and footnote to my ventricles' content?

Third, is the story worth translating?  That is, is it interesting enough for me to consider it, and whether so many translations exist of it that another one would just be a bad idea.   Is there even a central index of what has been translated and how many times a story has been translated?

All that, and I haven't even considered the copyright issues. But in the meantime, maw, dem blogger iz in de brer entry again!


08 December 2005

北京的哥不再当“政治评论员”/Beijing's Taxi drivers Are No Longer "Political Commentators"

I can't remember where I saw this first linked (probably ESWN or Danwei), but it had remained untranslated, and seemed like an interesting challenge. This piece comes from Singapore's 联合早报 (United/Consolidated Morning News - there is no English name that I could find). This piece has been reprinted in several places online, including at Xinhua News (http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2005-11/29/content_3850090.htm).

Key to how to reading my notes:

1. All pronounciations are rendered in standard pinyin, with tones. Your browser should be able to read them. If not, I have also included the simplified Chinese character (how it was printed, at least) and also the pinyin with numbered tones appended). Note that I capitalize every word so that you there's no mistake about where one word ends and the other begins. I didn't add tone marks to the cities, but just in case, it's Bei3 Jing1 and Wu3 Han4)

2. ( ) are alternate readings and translations, I might insert something if I feel that I needed to explain something further about a term. These aren't meant to be part of the sentence, just editorial comments.

3. [ ] are additions, such as to provide context for a sentence.

I try to be as faithful to the original as I can be in wording. Everything else is done as close to the meaning as I could make it. As I said, this is a translation exercise for me and may not be completely accurate. Hopefully I'll get better at this as time progresses. If you can read Chinese and can spare a few minutes, please let me know how I did!

Translation is protected by the labrynthine maze that is US IP (etc etc). Please let me know if you are posting to this elsewhere, and to properly credit the translator.

I'm off my gin bathtub. See below for actual point of this post.


Beijing's "DiGe (Di1 Ge1 - Taxi drivers)" are no longer "Political Commentators"

In the eyes of the Chinese, the impression that Beijing's "DiGe" (的(pronounced dī ‘笛’)哥 gē) - taxi drivers) are all political commentators is well-established.

Living in the "Friendliest of Cities", Beijingers are usually very familiar with domestic and foreign political matters; taxi drivers, who spend the entire day listening to radio broadcasts, love to chat with their passengers about everything, even more so than ordinary Beijinger.

Recently, taxi drivers' renown as 'political commentators' has almost disappeared.

When asked if he still chat about politics with his riders, night shift driver Cài (蔡 - Cai4) says: "If the rider wants to chat then we do, but now no one has the inclination."

Following Beijing's increasing globalisation (alternate: opening up to the outside) and commercialization, its citizens are now more concerned with day-to-day living than with military and government matters.

Intense competition due to commercialization, along with the pressure of constantly measuring one's life with those of relatives and acquaintances, have increased Beijingers' psychological burdens as they try to raise their standards of living.

Intense Pressures in the Lives of the Taxi Drivers

Citizens from outside Beijing can also feel the fast pace of life in this city (Beijing). WuHan's TúJùn (涂俊 - Tu2 Jun4), who came to Beijing to work, complains that Beijing life is too intense (紧张, jin3 zhang1, implying that it's also rushed) and does not appeal to him. He wants to go back to WuHan once he has earned enough money.

Passengers aren't so concerned about politics anymore, and drivers also aren't interested. Driver Cài says that housing costs, educating children, the rising cost of living...there are too many things to worry about; when taxi drivers meet, they also talk little about politics.

Like other Beijingers, taxi drivers also face market competition's associated pressures. Beijing has almost 300 taxi companies, together there are 68000 cars in service, with almost 100000 drivers (some cars are driven in two shifts).

Different companies have different rental arrangements. Beijing Capital Taxi Corporation, Limited (股份有限公司, literally, Shares Limited Company) collects 5175RMB in monthly rental fees, which includes insurance, 200RMB gas reimbursement. If the car has two drivers (two shifts), then the rental price is 7000RMB.

Driver Cài, who belongs to another taxi company, estimates that besides the rental fee, he spends 3000RMB on gasoline, plus insurance, repairs, and meals. Monthly expenses add up to over 9000RMB every month.

Cài says, "The first 9000RMB doesn't belong to me. What will happen if I don't work more than ten hours a day? (rhetorical question: 一天不做10小时以上能行吗?literally, will it be fine if I don't work more than ten hours a day?)"

This journalist took the opportunity while chatting with taxi drivers to conduct a simple survey. [He] found that, shortest average shift is ten hours. Some drivers must drive for up to twelve hours, no vacation year-round (including Chinese New Year), to earn an average income that is, at best, between 2000-3000RMB. If he is unlucky and gets a traffic ticket (lightest fine is 200RMB), then he'll have earned no income for that day.

Farmers from other places become new Di Ge

The changing makeup of taxi drivers is also a reason for the lack of interest in politics. Lengthy work shifts and small incomes make jobs as taxi drivers not as attractive. Native Beijingers don't want to be taxi drivers [anymore].

Twenty years ago, when there weren't as many cars in China, taxi drivers were ideal spouses for an air hostess, because they can be counted as belonging to the car-owning social class.

Long work hours and with no opportunity to rest, some taxi drivers have been worked to exhaustion. [The journalist has heard] stories of drivers unexpectedly dying in their vehicles [from their exhaustion (most likely explanation – ed.)]. Following the retirements of older taxi drivers, many middle-aged drivers have begun driving "black cars" (using an unlicensed private car to transport passengers) because the time demands are more flexible. Many young people also don't want to [become taxi drivers]. The jobs have been filled by farmers from elsewhere.

To these farmers, 2000-3000 RMB a month is an impressive income.

To these new taxi drivers, Beijing's 700 square kilometers, with its associated hutongs, is like a big maze. They worry about passengers complaining, and consequently they are so busy memorizing routes that they don't have any urge to chat.

Also, these [new taxi drivers] grew up in villages and have very simple backgrounds, their base of knowledge and oral skills cannot compare with native Beijinger Di Ge, naturally they cannot be like the native Beijing drivers and talk about political subjects with the same skill and enthusiasm (侃(kan3)侃(kan3)而(er2)谈(tan2) - somewhat derogatory, implies especially ceaseless discussion, also possibly implying a certain amount of oratory talent).

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06 December 2005

China, 拆拿, 拆了又拿

(overheard on a bus on Third Ring Road)

My current idea for this blog is to specialize it beyond categorizing the ridiculous (Beauty Saloon in Sanlitun, anyone? Remember, the more you drink, the better she looks.). Thus, I've decided to use it as a bathtub for gin making, also as a soap box upon which I will dispense subjects of interest to anyone still left reading after that last comment.

I've been interested in translation ever since I learned English. And let me say that as an INTP, shades of meaning drive me absolutely crazy. So, in order to please myself, I've decided that this blog will probably end up as a repository for all the translation work that I've set myself to do. Some of the literature can be found elsewhere in print anthologies, but really, the purpose is to give myself practice, regardless of redundancy.

EastSouthWestNorth has a very neat feature in which the blogger will translate some articles from Chinese into English. I hope to follow in his oversized shoes and do a few of my own. The ones that I do aren't meant to be significant. Face it, the whole exercise is supposed to make my Chinese (or English) better, but I'm not holding my breath.

My current "literary" project (on hold) is transcribing and translating 刘三姐 (Liu San Jie), a minority musical from the early 60s. I'll post it when I am finished, probably when I am 80 and in my last gasps from some sort of insidious flesh eating virus.

In the mean time, I'll go back to whatever it is I am doing and be very afraid because the bird flu has jumped into pigs and thus come one step closer to achieving human to human infection potential...


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