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BotM Proposal for December: Wang Xiaobo's 黄金时代


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Thanks, renzhe.

The style really did remind me of Kafka. "The Trial" is one of my favourite books and it is a perfect example of how much a translation can affect a book. I read it in Serbian, English and German. The Serbian translation was great, very funny. The English one was dry and boring. The original (German) version was spot on. That story can only be told in German.

See this article below about new English translations of Kafka that supposedly show more of his humor. I haven't seen the new translations. The English translations I've read of Kafka are the old Muir translations. The language was fairly formal, the humor understated. I kind liked it that way.

http://www.nysun.com/arts/kafka-lightens-up/72361/

Kafka Lightens Up

By BENJAMIN LYTAL | March 5, 2008

But with the Schocken translations and Michael Hofmann's 2002 translation of "Amerika: The Man Who Disappeared," a wiser and more colorful Kafka may be taking hold, at least in the world of American publishing. This new Kafka is funny — as David Foster Wallace pointed out in his essay "Laughing with Kafka" (1998), he is often much funnier than American students give him credit for. "Amerika" is by the far the most vaudevillian of Kafka's three novels, and also the least read, and Mr. Hofmann's retranslation seemed to showcase a neglected facet of the writer's work.

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I don't like 陈清扬 at all. Sure, 王二 is not exactly serious relationship material, but I still think "做过这事和喜欢这事大不一样。前者该当出斗争差,后者就该五马分尸千刀万剐" is a really sick and disturbing thing to say about sex.

That's not what she believes but the conventional morality of that revolutionary era, when everything you do is supposed to advance the revolutionary cause and sex was for procreation and not enjoyment.

The exact wording is influenced by the context, but 陈清扬 definitely believes there is no problem with having sex as long as she doesn't enjoy it. And the problem with enjoying it is not conventional morality, but that she is aware that if she enjoys sex she risks falling in love with 王二, and she has decided that she never wants to love another person (why I don't like her). As she explains:

陈清扬后来和我说,每回和我做爱都深受折磨。在内心深处她很想叫出来,想抱住我狂吻,但是她不乐意。她不想爱别人,任何人都不爱;尽管如此,我吻她脚心时,一股辛辣的感觉还是钻到她心里来。

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The fact that we can argue these things in such depth (apparently all having had a different interpretation) is a credit to the book, IMHO. :D

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  • 12 years later...
realmayo

I read this several years ago and was quite proud of myself for doing so. Read it again the last couple of days and found it extraordinarily boring. I can see why it was important for its time and place, and even in 2008 would be interestingly different from lots of other Chinese fiction. But all it's done for me now is put me in a bad mood. And I'd been hoping to spend the next couple of weeks reading quite a bit of Wang Xiaobo.

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Lu

That's a pity. I hope you have a plan B for your reading of the next couple of weeks.

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roddy

I wonder if his essays might hold up better - 沉默的大多数 I remember enjoying, but that was many years ago. His short story 猫 still sends shivers down my spine when I think about it, but it's one of those things I don't re-read in case I don't like it as much second time round. 

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realmayo

Do have a plan B - a much less demanding trilogy (about local govenment) already lined up. When I'm less grumpy at him I'll try another of the 王小波 novellas I had ready, and also have a go at 沉默的大多数 which I can see I downloaded five years ago...

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