Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
imron

BOTM March 2008 《围城》by 钱钟书

Recommended Posts

Shadowdh

Yeah youre probably right Rachel :mrgreen:

I also tried downloading the audio book but had no joy... its no problem really will just keep ploughing through... its a nice challenge, enjoyable in a twisted way... but you know us womanfolk... :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

rob07
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.

I don't think there are any likable characters in this book. And it is not like, say, 三国演义 where the bad guys do bad things on a grand and heroic scale so you like them anyway, or 水浒传, where the guys you don't like are just so totally evil there is no chance you are going to empathise with them

All the characters in this book are mean, drab, pathetic and miserable in way that you can identify with and it makes me squirm. I think anyone who says this is their favourite book must have a very depressing world view.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sam Addington

I will just continue to read slowly. One of the things I got hung up on today was 俾斯麦. I knew it was a transliteration, but I couldn't imagine who. I was racking my mind for names of French philosophers, but I should have guessed it was a German -- Bismarck. Why no克?Anybody have any hints for looking up transliterations?

And instead of the Jewish woman enjoying flirtation (善撒娇) I thought she must be from some European city called San Sajiao. And was it common to refer to a man as 漂亮 back in the Thirties? Somehow, I think not. And he certainly behaves like an effiminate fop!

So the challenges of reading can be part of the enjoyment. One book that I was recommended back when I was studying literature was "S/Z" by Roland Barthes (French). The point of the book is that once a book becomes public domain, it takes on a life of its own, writes itself. How much more so when we come at a book written not only from a Chinese perspective, but from the perspective of another era. Can we possibly know these people?

I am leaving off today just as I am meeting Mr. Fang. Poor Miss Su certainly has been bitten! I can see that this infatuation will go no where. And just who is Miss Bao? Drat, I've already read the reviews. I already know she will dump Mr. Fang. Oh dear.

How about comparing this book to the writings of Jane Austin?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

With transliterations, just google it in quotation marks - "俾斯麦". You'll often get the English in the results (you do in this case). If not visit some of the pages, or click through to an image search - which in this case also gets you battleships . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
How about comparing this book to the writings of Jane Austin?

There's some similarity with Pride & Prejudice, but whereas the central character in Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett, is probably a stand-in for Jane Austin, and thus made quite sympathetic, there doesn't seem to be a stand-in for the Qing Zhongshu here. That's one of the challenging thing about this book, or what makes the worldview of this book "depressing" as someone wrote above.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rob07

It's interesting that you mentioned Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man earlier in the thread, Gato. If I had to pick the Western book that 围城 most reminded me of, it would probably be Dubliners, also by James Joyce.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

Any particular story in Dubliners, as Dubliners is a collection. I would think it might be closer to Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, which I haven't read, but I heard that it's a great satire of campus intellectuals. Or one of the Evelyn Waugh's works -- one of his more satirical works, not "Brideshead Revisited", which has a quite sympathetic central character.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rob07

True, Dubliners is a collection of short stories but there is a single narrative arc in the way they are put together. The first few deal with bad things happening to innocents because they are drab, pathetic and miserable. The next few deal with already corrupt people doing bad things in a drab, pathetic and miserable way to other people but failing to get anywhere as a result. Then there a couple that each look at a social institution such as the Church or the political process and show how those processes make people involved in them drab, pathetic and miserable. Then the last story offers a faint note of optimism. Apart from the last story, there is a depressing air of inevitability about a bad outcome for everyone involved all the time. So I found the vibe and worldview of Dubliners very like that of 围城.

Lucky Jim is satire but it is affectionate. Lucky Jim gets the girl and a great new job at the end and lives happily ever after.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sam Addington

I don't think it is a question of whether we like the characters or not, but of how accurately they are painted. And certainly the author himself per force has to be present in all of this. After all, he is populating the world out of his own head.

So far I would say that the characters are caricatures. The author goes so far as to suggest this when he says that Miss Su could be drawn with a square-tipped pen. I can certainly see myself on a boat observing the world and seeing the very same characters. The dowdy housewife. The tight-lipped old maid. The "voluptous blonde." The confused Mr. Fang.

Once again, we must not forget that we are in the Thirties. Arranged marriages are still the norm. These kids are breaking new ground. They have been in Europe for a few years. They are returning home to a country under siege. But for now they are in a world of their own, on a ship. The world they live in is quite petty.

For those of you who have read further I have a question. What do they see when they arrive home? I assume they are headed for Shanghai. Am I correct? Is there any good social commentary in the book? Does the author provide any hope for the New China? (Did the author know Mao Dun for example? Now there would be a worthwhile ground for comparison!)

I also have a question about the title. Could it also be appropriately translated "City Under Siege"? Or simply "City Surrounded"? To me the image of a fortress is a bit too limited. How central, for example, is the institution of marriage to the book? Is in not rather broader? I would think the more like answer is that the book is about a nation under siege.

Another question, what types of characters would like to have seen in the book? A hero, no doubt! Were there any authors of the period offering us heros? Once again Mao Dun comes to mind.

I suppose I brought up Jane Austin because she writes about the "genteel" class of society. These people are also the more monied segment of society. Jane Austin lived in 19th century England, however. Quite different from 20th century Shanghai!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy
Does the author provide any hope for the New China?

Not by the end of Chapter 6 he doesn't. There aren't even any decent girls in it any more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
There aren't even any decent girls in it any more.
Only the indecent ones remain then? :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sam Addington

I now know more about Otto von Bismarck than I could possibly want to know. Thanks for the hint.:mrgreen:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sam Addington
You were not by chance thinking of me were you... if so then it would be middle-aged man... not so much of the young really, and none of the lady...

I was indeed thinking of you. Please keep me company in the facinating labyrinth of the Chinese dictionary. It is the slow ones that can take the time to truly observe. Did you notice how Miss Pao looked as if she had just finished bathing in the Dead Sea, for example?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sam Addington

It seems like Fang is a fairly likable character. Just a bit lost like all of us. My next task is to decipher the letter he wrote his father. I feel certain this is a very funny, satirical section! I have the translation to the novel on order, so that will help, but I will still feel obligated to look words up in the dictionary as well.

Some words I looked up yesterday:

冤枉yuan1wang:unfair -- I keep wanting to pronounce it tu -- the bunny rabbit has me stymied. My version of the book is a 繁体字Hong Kong version and the character is the alternative with the dot on the cap.

Another word that comes to mind is 原谅yuanliang: forgive. Maybe it is the similarity in pronunciation that keeps me from integrating 冤枉.

窘jiong3 -- there are only 12 words in the dictionary with this pronunciation!! The Chinese definition was 穷困, hard up. The third definition was embarrassed. Not many words are pronounced qiong either, and all are second tone. Perhaps the association will help me to remember.

衣锦还乡yi1jin3huan4xiang4: to go back to the provinces in all your finery. This is where slow reading gets fun. I love to think back on the culture that produced this expression. The frustrating (but facinating) part is the character 锦jin3. 棉mian means cotton and 绵also mian means silk thread. So much to know.

I don't know why I had to look up 侨居qiaoju, but I did. I should have thought of 华侨(Overseas Chinese) but I didn't.

The pages of my dictionary are very thin and it is difficult to find words. I hope my electronic dictionary comes in soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
The pages of my dictionary are very thin and it is difficult to find words. I hope my electronic dictionary comes in soon.

You don't have PlecoDict? You poor guy! :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sam Addington

Gato, I'm groping in the dark over hear. All of the sudden it occurs to me that I have spent alot of money on an electronic dictionary when i could have purchased a handheld pc ... This new electronic age is beyond me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

Working through Chapter 7, there are rumors of two more girls turning up. However they both work at a university, so I doubt we'll get we'll see even 半个真理。

I'm also discovering that despite the fact it makes me feel like I should be in kindergarten reading a book with chewable pages, I enjoy listening to the audio book while I read along. Slows down the actual reading I think, but stops me getting distracted and drifting off, so I still get through it quicker.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

Finished chapter 7, enjoyed it a bit more than the last couple. There's a bit of romance floating around again and the university politics is hotting up somewhat.

2 chapters, 50,000 characters, four hours worth of audiobook to go. Am i right in saying I'm the only one who works stuff like that out and gets annoyed when, eg, authors don't put a similar number of characters in each chapter :help

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sam Addington
authors don't put a similar number of characters in each chapter

Guess they didn't have "word count" back then :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gougou
Am i right in saying I'm the only one who works stuff like that out and gets annoyed when, eg, authors don't put a similar number of characters in each chapter
Heck no, Germany has 83 million people.

Work kept me busy the last few days, so I've got a couple of pages left in 红袖, will pick up 围城 fairly soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...