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On 9/24/2021 at 9:58 PM, Woodford said:

Because Keigo Higashino's books are on the bestseller lists in China, I mistakenly bought one, thinking it was a Chinese book. I don't regret it, however, because that book was wonderful and breezy. Recently, I accidentally bought another book translated from Japanese, and I'm actually looking forward to reading it (I don't think it has an English translation, anyway).

 

I've thinking of trying Japanese books translated into Chinese, but haven't settled on one yet. 

 

I was looking at 1Q84 by Murakami, but I'm concerned it might be too literary / heavy. Or Ishiguro's Never Let me Go, but that's actually an originally English language book (so there's no real reason for me to read a translation).  I'll add Higashino as a candidate, especially since he's popular in China, which I assume means his translations are good.

 

In terms of translated works, another one I was thinking of reading is the Witcher, 猎魔人.  I played the game and considered reading his novels (originally in Polish), but never got around to it.  Now it can double as language training :)

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On 9/24/2021 at 7:24 PM, phills said:

I've thinking of trying Japanese books translated into Chinese, but haven't settled on one yet. 


A few months ago I’ve finished reading a Japanese book in Chinese, called 红手指. It’s a crime book and I thought it wasn’t bad. I was able to read it quite fluently, which was nice, and you get some nice crime and police-related vocabulary.

I recommend you try it!

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During my relatively brief break from studying Chinese, I have set about reading two books in English. The first, which I just finished, was Metro 2033 (originally written in Russian). It is a dystopian post-apocolyptic thriller. It depicts the last remnants of humanity, survivors of a nuclear holocaust, surviving underground in the Moscow metro. They organize themselves into miniature societies at each station. They war amongst themselves, trade and form alliances, and seek to keep the horrors of the overworld -- and the terrors in the dark -- at bay, if just to live a few more years. It was bleak, and the author does a good job evoking the kind of creeping dread that keeps you tied to your seat, but he is also quite wordy at times, and I wonder if perhaps the highly patriarchal nature of Russian culture was showing, because there were exactly zero female characters. Only male viewpoints, which I found somewhat flat ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ My only other complaint is that it revealed itself to be a tragedy on the very last page. I do not enjoy tragedies, but YMMV.

 

I have just started my second book: The Years of Rice and Salt. This one promises to be quite the epic. Several hundred years of vividly-written alternate history, spanning nearly 700 pages, all springing from a single spark -- what if the black plague had killed 99% of Europe, instead of just a third of it? The book tells ten stories, each taking place in a different time and place, but in each story the main characters are reincarnated and identified to the reader by the first letter of their name.

 

I am already a few chapters in. So far, I quite enjoy the writing style. Here is an excerpt:

 

"The city was empty. Of course we are reborn many times. We fill our bodies like air in bubbles, and when the bubbles pop we puff away into the bardo, wandering until we are blown into some new life, somewhere back in the world. This knowledge had often been a comfort to Bold as he stumbled exhausted over battlefields in the aftermath, the ground littered with broken bodies like empty coats "

 

Very poetic. Exactly what I like to see in my books. Hopefully the rest of the writing holds to this standard.

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On 9/25/2021 at 10:28 PM, Ori_A said:

A few months ago I’ve finished reading a Japanese book in Chinese, called 红手指.

 

Thanks for the suggestion.  At 100k words, it looks very mangeable.  I'll add it to my pipeline!

 

On 9/26/2021 at 5:36 AM, 黄有光 said:

I have just started my second book: The Years of Rice and Salt.

 

I read part of Years of Rice & Salt a long time ago.  I stopped because of other time commitments, but you've reminded me that I've always wanted to get back to it. 

 

The premise is fascinating, but Kim Stanley Robinson can be longwinded.  To me, KSR is a premise guy, not an execution guy, and I end up stopping partway through his works (I also stopped 3/4 way through Red Mars).  Let me know what you think of YRS and if it's worth getting back to!

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On 9/25/2021 at 11:36 PM, 黄有光 said:

I have just started my second book: The Years of Rice and Salt.

I read that one a few years ago and quite liked it, even though it has mistakes in the Chinese parts. (What is it with American SFF writers and their sloppiness on things Chinese? In this book, and in The Martian, and last week I read The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin and the minute she has a scene with some Chinese culture/language in it, she manages to make three mistakes in two pages. In her afterword she thanks all her sensitivity readers and other people who helped her get other cultures right, but apparently didn't think to ask anyone with a passing knowledge of Chinese. Sigh.)

 

Found a secondhand copy of one of Ken Liu's Chinese scifi short story collections, so I have some more good stuff to read.

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On 9/25/2021 at 12:24 AM, phills said:

I'll add Higashino as a candidate, especially since he's popular in China, which I assume means his translations are good.

As a Japanese learner I would say Higashino's detective stories are surprisingly approachable. His dialogue-heavy style, third person limited point of view, the absence of unnecessary depictions of scenery or internal monologues, the matter-of-fact way of telling the story, all quite beginner-friendly in my opinion. And a translation wouldn't change much of that I'd imagine. His 容疑者Xの献身 is the first Japanese novel I've ever succeeded in finishing (after a failed attempt at Murakami's Norwegian Wood, whose pretentious style and cliched treatment of female characters really turned me off). After 嫌疑犯X的献身 I read two more of his novels, 白夜行 and 悪意, and a bunch of short stories in the Galileo series, and enjoyed every one of them. I also have the Japanese version of 解忧杂货店 on my shelf but haven't opened it yet, cuz I heard it's an abrupt departure from the mystery genre (he veered into 治愈系 I'm told). Anyway, I think Higashino is a good idea :)

 

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On 9/13/2021 at 11:26 PM, Woodford said:

Just finished 撒哈拉的故事. In quite a few places, I found it to be an exciting page-turner. The beginning of the book seemed really light-hearted and funny, but things got more serious as the book progressed...

 

I just finished 撒哈拉的故事.  As @Woodford says, it's suposed to be light-hearted & adventerous but there's definitely a touch of sadness in it as well. 

 

Unlike Woodford though, I found it on the hard side.  Because it's written in an artistic way, I think I only understood like 2/3rds of it, and it destabilzed my reading ability to the point where by the end, I was reading about 2/3rds the speed I normally do.  Normally, by the time I get to the end of a book, I'm reading about 150% of the speed I normally do, as I get used to the author's style. 

 

Because I don't think I understood the novel completely, I can't tell if the sadness is something the author clearly overcame after she got used to the place, or something she never quite got over but accepted to as part of the overall package of living there (which she liked overall). 

 

If the latter (which I suspect), she would have made sure that she conveyed the negative parts in order to paint a full picture.  That's fine writing but tends to make the narrative / description conflicted and confusing to a novice reader.  In the last 2 chapters, I kept on waiting for some tragedy to happen...

 

The second factor that's slightly disorienting is that it's not exactly clear how much of the tale is a true story, and how much is poetic license / exaggeration / dramatization.  That's an exciting ambiguity when reading in your native language, but can throw you off if at the same time, you're also trying to figure out if you deciphered it the story correctly.  That couldn't be what she's saying, could it?! (  我抱着大毛巾,踏在厚厚的羊粪上... )

 

Halfway through though, I got past this (after the evil spirits story).  So it's not as disorienting as the happy/sad distinction that I never figured out, even by the end.

 

In terms of understanding the plot, the only part I couldn't figure out was the short bit about 马诺林 who gave them “天堂鸟”的花?  Does anyone remember what happened there?

 

In terms of understanding all the sentences, I had about a dozen places where what was being expressed wasn't really clear to me, but I got the general gist of it.  I'll have to come back and read this again when my Chinese is better.  In the meantime, I'm also tempted to buy the English translation, as I didn't see any free ones online. 

 

( I did find online a Masters Thesis from 2015 that someone wrote translating 3 of the chapters in it.  Pretty interesting on its own, because the thesis also talks about some the challenges in translating San Mao. )

 

https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1239&context=masters_theses_2

 

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On 9/29/2021 at 5:57 AM, phills said:

Unlike Woodford though, I found it on the hard side.

 

Actually, while I found that the book was generally easy to follow, I found many individual places to be difficult to understand. At times, it was rather discouraging to me. It was my 12th book, and while that fact does not make me a seasoned veteran by any means (I have a lot more work to do), I thought my reading capabilities would have been better by now. There were dozens of places where I thought, "What? Huhhh? Whaaaat?" And the tough thing is that I can't just look up these phrases in dictionaries (like I can with words and chengyu). I suppose the only solution is to get an English edition of the book and look at what it says. But some of these books don't have English translations. Learning to read Chinese can be so difficult sometimes!

 

I am also confused about to what extent the story is fictional, and to what extent it isn't. I can't remember where, but I read an English-language review of the story, and the person classified Sanmao's work as part-fiction, part autobiography. That makes sense, because a lot of her stories seem a bit too fantastic to be completely true.

 

My current book, 草原动物园, is heavier in terms of unknown vocabulary (about twice as much), but it's way easier to understand. So I feel encouraged again, for the time being.

 

 

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On 9/29/2021 at 11:59 PM, Woodford said:

At times, it was rather discouraging to me. It was my 12th book, and while that fact does not make me a seasoned veteran by any means (I have a lot more work to do), I thought my reading capabilities would have been better by now.

 

Exactly!  I've read about that many books too, and I also found it hard, compared to the last few books I read: 三体 2, 圈子圈套 2,秘书长 (all relatively straightforward once you adjusted to the jargon).  Just shows there's always more to learn!

 

But you often see people classify this as "easy", and I don't think that's a fair rating.  活着 is (relatively) easy, but this isn't.  I'll have to get the English version soon, just to see the nuances I missed.

 

Did you understand the story around “天堂鸟”的花?  Was 马诺林 trying to pursue 三毛 or 荷西, or am I on a completely wrong track? 

 

Was there something special about that kind of flower?  Why is it burning (天堂鸟在墙角怒放着燃烧着它们自己), or is burning a metaphor?

 

What's the significance of the book 马诺林 gives them at the end (《在亚洲的星空下》)? 

 

The whole section was written in a very indirect way, which makes me think it's something embarassing, but it went over my head.

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On 9/29/2021 at 11:28 AM, phills said:

Did you understand the story around “天堂鸟”的花?  Was 马诺林 trying to pursue 三毛 or 荷西, or am I on a completely wrong track? 

 

My memory about that is really vague (what's the name of the story where it's found?), though I do seem to remember the 天堂鸟在墙角怒放着燃烧着它们自己 phrase. To me, it sounds like the "bird of paradise" flower. It seems like it's blooming (怒放) in such a way that it looks like it's on fire (燃烧着它们自己)? I'm not sure at all. I also seem to recall that 马诺林 ran away in embarrassment at a certain point, but I had no idea exactly why.

 

Here's a tough phrase from the beginning of the book, where Sanmao is teasing her husband about food:

 

他生气了,用筷子一夹夹了一个,面部大有壮士一去不复返的悲壮表情,咬了半天,吞下去。 ”事了,是海苔。“ 我跳起来,大叫,”对了,对了,真聪明!“ 又要跳,头上吃了他一记老大爆栗。
 

I understand everything up until the last phrase, 头上吃了他一记老大爆栗。 I don't even know where to go with that.

 

Then there's this phrase that she quotes (which might come from ancient poetry?), regarding her tendency to forget everything she learned while taking a test, only to clearly remember everything after the test is over (in this case it's her driver's license exam):

 

此情可待成追忆,只是当时已惘然也。

 

So there were a few phrases like those ones, but in many other places, I generally lacked confidence that I truly understood what was going on. For instance, the last story. It's a really long one, and I got the general outline. But it involves so many specifics about tribal politics, and...I believe...some complex love triangle in which two men are fighting over a woman, and one man decides, "If I can't have her, the other guy can't have her either!" and stages an execution for her. There was a lot of action that happened after that, but I'm still not sure I fully understood the outcome.

 

There are a couple other books that have the reputation of being "easy" in these forums, like Wang Xiaobo's "Golden Age" and Lao She's "Cat Country." I actually had a really difficult time with both of them. I guess people around here are just really good at reading!

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On 9/24/2021 at 5:24 PM, phills said:

I've thinking of trying Japanese books translated into Chinese, but haven't settled on one yet. 

I read Convenience Store Woman in Chinese a while back. It was really good. I enjoyed it and it wasn't a hard read. I'm also thinking of getting some Keigo Higashino's book in Chinese because I like the genre so I think the vocabulary could be useful for future reads. 

 

 

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@phills, this is quite funny--I was browsing through the master's thesis you shared, and I saw that it directly answered one of my questions (about the driver's license test poetry quote):

"Humor is sometimes conveyed by proverbs, idioms, and quotations from classical Chinese poems. One example of intertextuality can be found in “Jacob’s Ladder,” which includes a quote from Li Shangyin (813-58) – “A moment that ought to last forever, has come and gone before I knew it” – to describe Sanmao’s temporary amnesia when taking a test (Sahala 89). Li is famous for his allusive lines that are open to multiple interpretations, and this quote provides such an example of many possible readings."

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Yea that Master's thesis is interesting.  Most of the sections she points out as difficult for translators are also difficult for novice readers.  I supposed we're sort of doing a translation in our head. 

 

I particularly like one of her (the Master Thesis') sentences about translating a tough San Mao sentence: "The  literal  translation  is  a  long,  confusing  sentence  that  overloads  communication."  :)

 

I'm going to move the actual San Mao discussion into another thread, since I think San Mao deserves her own thread.  As a forum searcher, I always liked finding a book thread on here before starting a book.

 

Speaking of language confusion, I enjoyed Sanmao's own description about her deciphering Spanish, when she was taking her drivers test and panicking:

 

"纸上一片外国蚂蚁,一个也认它不出。我拼命叫自己安静下来,镇定下来,但是没有什么效果,蚂蚁都说外国话。"

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On 7/31/2021 at 5:38 PM, Lu said:

I'm hesitating about watching the live action series. I kind of want to continue to consume this thing, but mainstream Chinese tv drama aesthetics are different from what I like to see. Many people love the series, but I guess the people who find it disappointing just stop watching and don't plaster their opinion all over the internet.

Yeah, I gave up after about ten or fifteen episodes...just wasn't a fan of some of the changes made from the book, among other things. But I did just finish reading 天官賜福 by the same author, which I'd been saving as something of a treat for myself. It's almost twice as long as 魔道祖師, for better or for worse, but well worth the read if you enjoyed 魔道祖師.

 

(I occasionally feel obligated in offline life to pretend that I like Good Literature, but the truth is that I got into Chinese to read pulpy webnovels, so...here we are 😇)

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On 10/1/2021 at 11:09 AM, pinion said:

But I did just finish reading 天官賜福 by the same author, which I'd been saving as something of a treat for myself. It's almost twice as long as 魔道祖師, for better or for worse, but well worth the read if you enjoyed 魔道祖師.

Twice as long! Ooh I really shouldn't, though I'm tempted. It just takes too much time that I should really spend on other things.

 

But glad there are more people here who read and enjoyed this book.

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Today I finished 王小波’s novella 《未来世界》. It’s a strange story told in a strange way. The novella has two main parts: one about the author’s uncle, one about the author himself. Neither part is historical in the traditional sense. The writing style is absurd, irreverent, vulgar, frequently funny. I liked it.

 

Now back to reading 《电》 by 巴金.

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Speaking of 王小波, I just finished up 黄金时代.  I started it a while ago (~6-7 books ago), and had difficulty with it the first time, got frustrated and put it aside. 

 

But this time, with better language skills, I got into the 流氓 spirit and appreciated it a lot more.  His writing has energy that a lot of the other writers don't.  I'll come back to him again later... maybe 未来世界, per @murrayjames's review.

 

Switching up genre's, I'm reading 红手指 next by Higashino, per a few posters' recommendations. 

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Tonight I finished the third book of 巴金’s love trilogy, 《电》. 

 

It’s different than the previous two novels in the series. Compared with 《雾》 and 《雨》,《电》 is darker, more suspenseful, and more consistently plot-driven. The novel is also only peripherally about romance. There are no pathetic expressions of infatuation. There are fewer conversations with educated writers about the propriety of love in dangerous times. Instead, there are numerous expressions of revolutionary zeal. There is action: guns, explosives, young agitators running from soldiers. There are a few hugs and kisses, too, but 《电》 is not a love story in the same way the other two books are.

 

It is my favorite of the four 巴金 novels I’ve read.

 

I’ll probably slog through the 67-page appendix. wish me luck.

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I finished 红手指  by Higashino.  Thanks @Ori_A for the suggestion.

 

It's not a traditional whodunnit, as they revealed the killer quite early in the book.  Nevertheless, it's quite the page turner.  After the crime was revealed about a third of the way in, I couldn't put it down and finished the last two thirds in a couple of days.

 

Mild spoilers:

 

Spoiler

I'm not sure I buy the "red finger" gimmick (the grandma could have just revealed herself at any time; and why didn't the sister tell the cops the first time about the call).  But it was great "Reveal", and I was disappoined that the father didn't get a last conversation with the grandma afterwards. 

 

Also, for me, it's the first time reading Japanese fiction.  I'm struck most by the impression that some element of the current Japanese middle-aged generation must feel like they're trapped between by 2 implacable Alien civilizations -- the Young and the Old.  They love and feel a lot of obligations towards them, but they can't relate to them in any way at all. 

 

You never get access to the interiors of the Kids or the Elders.  The Adults talk about them, but rarely talk to them, and can't figure them out.  There's such a vast gulf between them, that if it was a sci-fi story, the Kids and the Elders could be replaced by Aliens that no one can communicate with.

 

I suppose I'll have to read more Japanese fiction to see if this is a common trope, or it's just something unique to this story.

 

It's a breezy read after you get used to parsing Japanese names, due to the amount of dialog.  Detective stories are mainly dialog -- interview with suspects, planning / coverup conversations between conspirators, etc.  I read this book about 30% faster than my last, 黄金时代, so you could say it's 30% easier.

 

For my next book, I'm going to return to the zany brothers of 兄弟 2 by 余华.

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