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BOTM March 2008 《围城》by 钱钟书


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Hi all, for the first time I am going to attempt to read a book in Chinese on the prestigious BOTM Club... tbh I am looking forward to it, but not sure about how much time I will get to dedicate to it and as I am a pretty slow reader in Chinese it might take me till next Chinese new year... :mrgreen:

As an aside, is it ok if I post a word doc and a text (in UTF8 encoding) for everyone? I will use Pleco 2's reader on my phone as I reckon this will give me the best chance to a) read and B) understand it... so if its ok I will attach the file here... just let me know... cheers

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I really feel like I should commit to this one, as I've started this book at least twice and just stopped for no good reason - I actually remember quite enjoying what I did read, I think. However, I'm also painfully aware of . . . well, of how completely rubbish I can be :mrgreen:

Incidentally there's also an audiobook version of the novel, and a TV series. VeryCD links are here and here, respectively, you can probably find them elsewhere if you don't use eMule. Maybe I'll listen to the audiobook version on the bus and pretend to have read the book.

Ok, I hereby commit to reading the first chapter over the weekend. That's a start.

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I thought the first chapter was a bit slow, so hang in there if you don't immediately like it. I didn't find at first the characters all that likeable and they seem somewhat exaggerated. But then I realized that it's a satire, whereas I was expecting "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" or something. I've also heard the " people outside the city want to get in; people within the city want to get out" lines repeated whenever the book is brought and thought that it might be a romance, but it's not really that, either..

Some people call it 《新儒林外史》 -- 《儒林外史》is a satire written during the Qing dynasty about students cramming for the imperial exam. That might be appropriate. Though there's no exam-cramming here, it is also about the lives of the young and educated upper middle class and pokes fun at them a bit.


Satire is probably the wrong word; comedy of manners, maybe.


comedy of manners

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And now I've read the second chapter, and am further into the book that I was previously. Quite enjoying it, the guy who spoke an early form of white-collar was good fun. I've also got a few episodes of the TV version downloaded, watched a small part of it and it looks quite good - very much a TV play kind of feel to it and the foreign characters look very much like they got press-ganged from a local university. A young 陈道明 stars, although I didn't recognize him at first.

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@gato yeah, that's who I was thinking of.

I'm working through Chapter 5 today - am trying to do a chapter every second day, have stuck to it so far. It's somewhat disheartening though when you find that the day's chapter is waaaaaaaay longer than the last one - 3 and 5 are monsters.

Anyway, I'm with Imron at the moment. It's well written, the back-and-forth banter can be amusing, the social commentary is biting, and sometimes it pops up with something like the passage at the start of Chapter 3 which I loved. But I'm not finding a single character likable, and I'm none too concerned what happens to them, which doesn't fill me with enthusiasm for continuing. But I will soldier on.

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I am very excited to join this forum. I am 53 and got my master's degree in Chinese literature in 1980. I have since migrated into the study of Japanese, but I keep wanting to get back to the Chinese.

I agree that reading one Chinese book a month is very ambitious. Good luck to the young lady who wants to finish the book by the Chinese New Year (which has come and gone by now, so perhaps you meant the NEXT Chinese New Year.

I started the book years ago and never got beyond the first chapter. (I like to savor a book, especially when it is in Chinese!)

I just remember being so enamored of a book written so long ago about students who study abroad and return to China via the Suez Canal. I couldn't go any further. However, thanks to your downloads, I can now do dictionary searches electronically. By the way, can anyone recommend a program that allows me to click directly on a Word doc to do a dictionary lookup? That would be fantastic to have.

I am really excited about this new electronic age.

Sam Addington

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A couple of articles about the book:


Fortress Besieged, by Qian Zhongshu trans. Jeanne Kelly & Nathan K Mao

By Aamer Hussein

Friday, 20 May 2005


Fortress Besieged (Intro.)

Update:2005-8-16 13:06:22

By the way, can anyone recommend a program that allows me to click directly on a Word doc to do a dictionary lookup? That would be fantastic to have.

Take a look at this list:


Best of Chinese Study Tools

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I spent the day translating the first paragraph! I didn't like Jonathan Spence, et. al's translation very much. I also found some of the images very intriguing. It seems that the sun darkens the night, for example. In one moment the night is compared to paper (which wraps) and in the next moment the night itself is being wrapped. It is all rather topsy turvy, like a drunken boat upon the sea (apologies to Rimbaud).

I've never quite caught on to the Chinese style of running sentence upon sentence together joined by commas. I enjoy the challenge of trying to put the whole thing into one English sentence. That works all right in a scientific treatise, but not in a work of fiction. (I've also been spending time retranslating the preface the bilingual edition of 现代汉语词典; talk about run-on sentences. I found the liberties they took quite interesting. I also found one glaring mistake it seems. But that for a different forum.

I look forward to reading the rest rather quickly, but I doubt I will catch up.

I also downloaded Dimsum. Not too bad, but I think it rather slowed me down. I'm looking forward to getting my Besta electronic dictionary in the mail next week. I got it from Amazon.com with points from my credit card. All these years I've used paper dictioinaries. For Christmas I bought myself a high-end Japanese electronic dictionary and now the Besta. Life is good.

Look forward to getting to know all of you better.

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I agree that reading one Chinese book a month is very ambitious. Good luck to the young lady who wants to finish the book by the Chinese New Year (which has come and gone by now, so perhaps you meant the NEXT Chinese New Year.

You were not by chance thinking of me were you... if so then it would be middle-aged man... :mrgreen: not so much of the young really, and none of the lady...:mrgreen:

I think your comment on the opening bit re the sun darkening the night is interesting, I liked how he described it as translucent like oil soaked paper...

I have to admit some tardiness when it comes to reading this one, Uni has restarted and our teacher has been giving out huge amounts of homework... plus the lessons are now much longer and new words many more... so I have managed to struggle my way through the first few paragraphs only... I cant wait till the day I can read as quickly as the rest of you... sigh..

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Oh come on Susan, there's no need to keep pretending. There are lots of other female members on here, and I really don't see why you want to maintain this facade.

If the actual reading is a bit challenging, don't forget there's the audiobook version so you can 'read along' if you want - I ended up doing that last night when I was determined to finish the chapter, but also very keen on falling asleep as soon as possible - and the TV show. Ok, it's not strictly speaking a 'book' of the month, but never mind . . .

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