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Kenny同志

Two English versions of Hong Lou Meng

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Kenny同志

To my knowledge, there are two English versions of 红楼梦(Hong Lou Meng), one by 杨宪益( Yixian Yang) and his wife 戴乃迭(Gladys Yang), the other by British sinologist David Hawkes and his son-in-law John Minford. I am now reading the Chinese original and as a now- amateur translator I plan to go about the two English versions when I am done with the original. Is there anyone who has finished the book, and how does it feel?

Your comment will be received with gratitude!

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gato

There are some threads discussing the translations, with a couple of posters stating that the Hawkes translation is the better read.

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/3181-literary-classics-what-makes-for-a-good-translation&highlight=David+Hawkes

Literary classics: what makes for a good translation?

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/277-dream-of-the-red-mansionchamber&highlight=David+Hawkes

Dream of the Red Mansion/Chamber

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/20225-four-great-classical-novels&highlight=David+Hawkes

Four great classical novels

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James Johnston

There are two other translations not in print but available on line. There are links to both from this blog, which also makes some comparisons about their merits.

Actually, David Hawkes died a couple of months ago leading to some discussions of his work in the British papers. This article is written by Fu Ying, the Chinese ambassador to the UK. This is a full obituary.

I find it fascinating that he never returned to China after leaving in 1951 yet maintained a passion for and fluency in the language for the rest of his life.

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rob07

This book was a passion of mine. I've read both the Yang and Hawkes translations as well as, eventually, the Chinese original. 加油 kenny2006woo. I would be very interested to hear how you go.

The Hawkes translation is definitely more readable as Gato says, but sometimes this is at the expense of faithfulness to the text. For example, in the Hawkes translation, 袭人 is consistently referred to as "Aroma", whereas in the Yang translation she is Xiren and it is explained exactly what that means. There's no doubt that for a Westerner struggling with hundreds of foreign names, calling 袭人 "Aroma" does make it easier to follow the story but an enormous amount is obviously being lost in translation when you don't know that a very major character's name is "Attacks People".

Not everything that Hawkes does to try to make the story readable is successful. For example, he consistently translates 红 as "green" because he thinks that red in Chinese culture corresponds to green in Western culture. I think he is trying to be too clever here. Most egregiously, he translates 怡红公子 as "Green Boy" which is just ridiculous. The Yangs translate it appropriately as "The Happy Red Prince".

I think the Yang translation is a solid and workmanslike piece of translation that is a bit laboured in parts because of the difficulty of the material whereas the Hawkes translation has more flair and is much more readable but it feels a bit less reliable.

Hawkes has done a remarkably good job with translating the poetry however (a nearly impossible job). For example:

Original: 都道是金玉良姻, 俺只念木石前盟.空对着,山中高士晶莹雪,终不忘, 世外仙姝寂寞林.叹人间,美中不足今方信.纵然是齐眉举案,到底意难平

Yangs:

Well matched, all say, the gold and the jade;

I alone recall the pledge between plant and stone.

Vainly facing the hermit in sparkling snow clad hills

I forget not the fairy in the lone woods beyond the world.

I sigh, learning that no man's happiness is complete:

Even a pair thought well-matched

May find disappointment.

Hawkes:

Let others all

Commend the marriage rites of gold and jade

I still recall

The bond of old by stone and flower made

And while my vacant eyes behold

Crystalline snows of beauty pure and cold

From my mind cannot be banished

That fairy wood forlorn that from the world has vanished.

How true I find

That every good some imperfection holds!

Even a wife so courteous and kind

No comfort brings to my afflicted mind.

Edited by rob07

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Lu

I haven't read the Yangs' translation of this book, but I have read others, and generally I really don't like their style of translating. In the books I've read, they manage to translate any and all Chinese to English that is completely dead. I salute them for translating so much, and thus making a lot of Chinese literature old and new available for foreign readers, but I dislike them for killing the style of everything they touch. Hawkes certainly takes some liberties in his HLM, but the result is a fantastic book, as the original no doubt is as well. As to his choice of translating some names, IMO it is helpful in navigating one's way to the enourmous amount of characters, and it is done consistently and tastefully.

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Kenny同志

Thanks for your encouragement, Rob07, I think it is time to save money now for my beloved books. Lol

And I’d like to ask how much will a full set of USED Hawkes version cost. I cannot afford a new set which costs about 1000RMB.

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Lu

Kenny, that really depends where and from whom you buy a used set. Best check amazon and other sites for used books and used other things.

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Kenny同志

Thanks Lu, I am afraid Amazon(US) service is not available in China, and even if so, the postage would be too high. I will wait and see.

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studentyoung
The Hawkes translation is definitely more readable as Gato says, but sometimes this is at the expense of faithfulness to the text. For example, in the Hawkes translation, 袭人 is consistently referred to as "Aroma", whereas in the Yang translation she is Xiren and it is explained exactly what that means. There's no doubt that for a Westerner struggling with hundreds of foreign names, calling 袭人 "Aroma" does make it easier to follow the story but an enormous amount is obviously being lost in translation when you don't know that a very major character's name is "Attacks People".

Indeed! In fact, 袭人’s name origins from 陆游’s poem, which is “花气袭人知骤暖 when aroma comes to you, you know the weather suddenly gets warm”. In the story, the name implies that 袭人has some underground relation with 晴雯’s death. 袭人 uses her aroma-like whispers to tell Lady Wang (王夫人) things about 宝玉, which is the main reason causes 晴雯’s death. That’s what “花气袭人 / attach others with aroma” means in the book.

Cheers!

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gato
And I’d like to ask how much will a full set of USED Hawkes version cost. I cannot afford a new set which costs about 1000RMB.

Maybe you can buy just the first volume first, which cover chapters 1 to 26. You can find a copy for 160 yuan on taobao (maybe you can bargain it down) or a beat up copy for 80 yuan on Kongfz used book.

http://item.taobao.com/auction/item_detail-0db1-5836818407ec902a3ba23766f6ff245f.htm?cm_cat=0

Story of the stone,Dream of the Red chamber V1 红楼梦 原版

http://shop.kongfz.com/book/11617/74674421.html

霍克斯英译《红楼梦》/Story of the Stone/Dream of the Red Chamber/Volume I: The Golden Days

You can also read a limited preview version of Volume 2 of the David Hawkes translation on Google:

http://books.google.com/books?id=RV9cUlfWhz0C&lpg=PP1&dq=Story%20of%20the%20Stone%20Dream%20of%20the%20Red%20Chamber%20david%20hawkes&pg=PA23#v=onepage&q=Story%20of%20the%20Stone%20Dream%20of%20the%20Red%20Chamber%20david%20hawkes&f=false

The crab-flower club By Xueqin Cao, David Hawkes

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