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Translation of Wang Xiaobo's 一只特立独行的猪 - A Pe

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roddy

Translation of Wang Xiaobo's 一只特立独行的猪 for comments.

I did this maybe a month ago originally, translated it and revised it a few times. I then left it to mature for a few weeks and I've now just gone over it again a couple of times (making no more reference to the original, just trying to make it read better).

Chinese original. I was going to write up some notes about things I wasn't sure about, or where I had to make certain executive decisions (ie 'I'm skipping that, it's difficult'). However, I'm tired and I'm going to bed now :mrgreen:

A Peculiar Pig

When they sent me to the countryside, I fed pigs and herded cows. Of course, these animals could manage fine without people. They’d saunter about eating and drinking, falling in love as spring comes. Simple lives, nothing of consequence. But when people come along, their lives get organized. Each cow, every pig, they all get given a purpose. For most, it’s a tragic one. The former laboring, the latter fattening. I don’t think that’s much to complain about though. My life at the time wasn’t much better – nothing to do but watch the revolutionary operas.

A few cows and pigs though, have their own ideas. Take pigs. The boar and the sow have got more to do than just eat, although they didn’t seem that interested to me. The boar’s mission is to mate - you might say it was our policy to let him sleep around. But only when they brought out a barrow (a castrated boar) did the worn-out boar act like a real man, leaping up onto the sow’s back. The sow’s mission was to bear children, but some ate them instead. Anyway, people make pigs miserable, but they still cope. Pigs are pigs, after all.

It’s only people that make all these arrangements, and not just for animals. In Sparta, things were arranged to the point of monotony, to turn the men into fearless fighters and the women into breeding machines, one like fighting cocks, the other a herd of sows. Very special animals, but they can’t have enjoyed their lives. What could they do though? People, animals - neither can change their fate.

There was one pig I fed who was a bit different. He was about four or five, a barrow but dark and thin with bright eyes. This one was agile like a goat, bounding a meter high fence in a single leap, or jumping cat-like onto the roof of the pen. He was always wandering about, hardly ever staying inside the fence. Us young intellectuals treated him like a pet, and he was my favorite too – because he only liked us. He’d let us get close to him, but he’d run from anyone else. Being male, he should have been castrated – but just you try it. He’d sniff out the spaying knife hidden behind your back and stare and snort at you.

I always fed him the best of the slops, and only when he’d finished would I pour the rest on the ground for the others. They all got jealous and filled the air with their cries, but we didn’t care. When he’d had enough he’d jump onto the roof to sunbathe or practice his sounds. He could do a car horn, a tractor – all very accurate.

Sometimes you wouldn’t see him all day. I think he must have gone to the nearby township looking for sows. We had sows, but they were all locked up in the pen, distorted by too many pregnancies, dirty and smelly - so he wasn’t interested. The township’s sows were a bit better looking. He had a lot of interesting stories to tell. But I didn’t feed the pigs for long and so I don’t know too many. I won’t write any more.

Anyway, all the young intellectuals who fed pigs liked this independent pioneer, and said he lived with style. The villagers weren’t that romantic though, they called him abnormal. The leaders even hated him, as we’ll see later. I didn’t just like him – I respected him. Sometimes I even forgot how old I was, and called him pig brother.

Like I said, this brother of mine copied loads of sounds. I’m sure he’d tried to learn to speak – if he’d succeeded, we could have spoken more directly. You can’t blame him for failing though. Pigs’ and peoples’ voices are too different. Later, he learnt to copy a steam whistle, and this got him in trouble. There was a sugar factory there, and the whistle on the boiler would blow at noon for the change of shift. When we heard it from the fields we would finish and come back. My pig brother would jump up on the roof at ten every morning to practice his steam whistling, and everyone in the fields would hear it and come back – an hour and a half earlier than the sugar factory’s whistle.

To be honest, it wasn’t his fault. It’s not as if he was really a boiler, and the sound was different, but the villagers always claimed they couldn’t tell. So, the leaders had a meeting and accused him of being a bad element, ruining the spring plowing. They threatened to punish him. I knew what the meetings were for, but I wasn’t worried. Even if punishment meant ropes and knives, they’d have no chance. The previous leaders had tried, but even a hundred people couldn’t catch him. Dogs weren’t any use – pig brother ran like an eel, knocking dogs through the air. But who could have known they’d be out in force this time?

The political instructor brought 20-odd people with May 4th rifles, the assistant political instructor had a dozen with firelocks and they trapped him between two lines outside the pigpen. This brought me a dilemma. We were friends, and I should have grabbed a pair of pig-slaughtering knives and run up to him, standing shoulder to shoulder. But that seemed just a bit too odd – I mean, a pig’s a pig, after all. Plus, I didn’t dare go against the leaders, and maybe that was the real reason.

So, I watched from the side, admiring his composure as he stood firm between the guns. The men shouted and the dogs barked, yet he didn’t budge. That way, if the rifles fired they’d kill the men with pistols, and vice versa. And if they both fired, they’d all die. But he had a smaller target. After a few circuits he found a gap, pushed his way through and fled majestically.

I saw him once, in the sugarcane fields. He’d grown tusks, and he recognized me, but he wouldn’t let me get close. His coldness made me sad, but I could understand why he wanted to keep his distance from us people and our dark plans.

I’m forty now, and that pig is the only person I’ve seen to ignore life’s constraints like that. Yet I’ve seen plenty who want to organize other people’s lives, and those who accept life’s organizations. So, I always remember that peculiar pig.

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CBC
A few cows and pigs though, have their own ideas.

I just start reading the beginning of your translation. The original meaning of the sentence is that their life were arranged by people, not that these pigs and cows arrange thier own life.

There is no passive voice in Chinese. The "voice" is dennoted from the context.

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CBC

[quote]They all got jealous and filled the air with their cries, but we didn’t care.

[/size]

Here "we" might be misunderstood as the young intellectuals, but the original text refers to "the pig and I".

I find translation work is very tiring and boring.

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in_lab

Roddy, I enjoyed the story. Good work. I'll try reading the Chinese story when I have time.

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HashiriKata

Thank you Roddy for showing us the work! I enjoyed reading your translation, which led me to the original. I've got a few suggestions after reading both and I hope you find them helpful. With what the author is trying to say in mind, I'll try to preserve as much as possible what you wrote:

1.

Original: 有极少数的猪和牛,它们的生活另有安排。以猪为例,种猪和母猪除了吃,还有别的事可干。就我所见,它们对这些安排也不大喜欢。

Translated: A few cows and pigs though, have their own ideas. Take pigs. The boar and the sow have got more to do than just eat, although they didn’t seem that interested to me.

Suggested: There is also another arrangement for a few cows and pigs though. Take pigs. The boar and the sow have got more to do than just eat; and to me, they are not happy either.

2.

我总是用细米糠熬的粥喂它,等它吃够了以后,才把糠对到野草里喂别的猪。其他猪看了嫉妒,一起嚷起来。这时候整个猪场一片鬼哭狼嚎,但我和它都不在乎。

Translated: I always fed him the best of the slops, and only when he’d finished would I pour the rest on the ground for the others. They all got jealous and filled the air with their cries, but we didn’t care.

I find 鬼哭狼嚎 a lively & amusing description, so I'd suggest at least adding "desperate" to your version. Note that I've also incorporated CBC's comment in the suggested version:

I always fed him the best of the slops, and only when he’d finished would I pour the rest on the ground for the others. They got all jealous and filled the air with their desperate cries, but we both didn’t care.

3.

它有很多精彩的事迹,但我喂猪的时间短,知道得有限,索性就不写了。

Translated: He had a lot of interesting stories to tell. But I didn’t feed the pigs for long and so I don’t know too many. I won’t write any more.

"I won’t write any more" doesn't make much sense. (Consider also the meaning of 索性 ).

Suggested: He had a lot of interesting stories to tell. But as I didn’t feed the pigs for long and I don’t know many, I just as well don't write about them altogether.

4.

我对它则不止是喜欢——我尊敬它,常常不顾自己虚长十几岁这一现实,把它叫做“猪兄”。

Translated: I didn’t just like him – I respected him. Sometimes I even forgot how old I was, and called him pig brother.

The suggested version below may get closer to the original and make more sense:

I didn’t just like him – I respected him. Sometimes I even forgot that I was much older than him, and called him "big brother pig".

5.

我想它也学过人说话,但没有学会——假如学会了,我们就可以做倾心之谈。

Translated: I’m sure he’d tried to learn to speak – if he’d succeeded, we could have spoken more directly.

Suggested: I’m sure he’d tried to learn to speak – if he’d succeeded, we could have had heart-to-heart conversations.

(with added sarcasm?)

6.

坦白地说,这不能全怪猪兄

Translated: To be honest, it wasn’t his fault.

Suggested: To be honest, it wasn’t entirely his fault.

(I'm not being literal minded here, I just feel the insertion gives a better undertone in the context)

7.

两头同时开火,两头都会被打死。至于它,因为目标小,多半没事。

Translated: And if they both fired, they’d all die. But he had a smaller target.

Suggested: And if they both fired, they’d all die. But since he was a smaller target, he might be all right.

8.

以后我在甘蔗地里还见过它一次

Translated: I saw him once, in the sugarcane fields.

Since you start a new paragraph with this sentence, it may sound better with "Later" added:

Later, I saw him once, in the sugarcane fields.

9.

我已经四十岁了,除了这只猪,还没见过谁敢于如此无视对生活的设置。

Translated: I’m forty now, and that pig is the only person I’ve seen to ignore life’s constraints like that.

"that pig is the only person" does sound a bit awkward, how about:

I’m forty now, and I haven't met anyone who dares disregard life's arrangements like that brother pig of mine.

10. Finally, "A Peculiar Pig" is a good title for 一只特立独行的猪. However, as a reader I'd somehow feel warmer towards "A Unique Pig" (without any need for changing the word "peculiar" as used within the story.)

Respect,

:D

PS: My suggestions are only for the ideas, please correct & forgive when appropriate.

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roddy

Thanks for these comments, especially the very thorough Hashirikata :clap

I'll leave it for a few more days to see if anyone else wants to suggest anything and then re-edit. Many thanks

Roddy

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BeijingSlacker

Great job, roddy.

My English is far far from good enough to do any serious literature translation, but I will throw my two cents. I can identify places where there is room for improvement, but can't really give you any ultimate answers. :oops: I will keep updating this post.

但老乡们却硬说听不出来
but the villagers always claimed they couldn’t tell

"硬" here does not mean "always".

"just" may be closer? I guess a less colloquial adverb is needed here.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

相反,我倒见过很多想要设置别人生活的人,还有对被设置的生活安之若素的人。
Yet I’ve seen plenty who want to organize other people’s lives, and those who accept life’s organizations

How about this

"and those who comfortably accept life’s arrangements."

I think "comfortably"(or any other words that approximate 安之若素) is a rather important thing Wang Xiaobo wants to express.

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gato
但老乡们却硬说听不出来

I would translate 硬说 as insist. Nice work. More later.

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HashiriKata

Without any intention of disagreeing with the above posts, I feel that Roddy's "but the villagers always claimed they couldn’t tell" has achieved the effect intended in the original, even if not in a word-for-word fashion. I have to say this because in a cross-culture translation, I'm sometimes faced with much worse scenarios where I'd have to replace what is said in the original with something completely different in order to achieve a similar effect.

Just a personal view. :D

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BeijingSlacker
但老乡们却硬说听不出来

I would translate 硬说 as insist. Nice work. More later.

Yes, sounds better than "just" (well, to me)

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gato
Without any intention of disagreeing with the above posts, I feel that Roddy's "but the villagers always claimed they couldn’t tell" has achieved the effect intended in the original, even if not in a word-for-word fashion.

Could you elaborate?

"Always" introduces a time element, implying that Wang observed the practice of the villagers for a long period of time. I don't see the original sentence saying that.

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in_lab

After reading the Chinese version, I just have a couple comments. I didn't compare them sentence by sentence, but noticed a couple things. The pig ran like a yu2lei2, which is a torpedo, not an eel. There was a word that wasn't translated: the guns were for kan4qing1, which the dictionary defines as "keep[ing] watch over ripening grain." Anyone else going to translate something? "A Peculiar Pig" was a fun story and a good length (very short :D ).

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roddy

I've wound up being busier than usual this week, but I just wanted to say thanks for all the comments so far - I'm looking forward to finding the time to print them out and go over them more carefully.

Many thanks

Roddy

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HashiriKata
Quote:

Without any intention of disagreeing with the above posts' date=' I feel that Roddy's "but the villagers always claimed they couldn’t tell" has achieved the effect intended in the original, even if not in a word-for-word fashion.[/i']

Could you elaborate?

First, to me, there's hardly any significant difference between "insisted" and "always claimed", especially in the context referred to. I think that such minor modifications might trigger "fault-finding missions" :mrgreen: .

Secondly, I believe in preserving the translator's personal style & flow, and in keeping intervention to the minimum, as I already said at the beginning of my first post:

With what the author is trying to say in mind, I'll try to preserve as much as possible what you wrote.

Nevertheless, you may be right since out there, there are people with very different approaches.

:D

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roddy

Printing out all the above to have a closer look. Why doesn't this forum have a print page function?

Roddy

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badatpool
我想它也学过人说话,但没有学会——假如学会了,我们就可以做倾心之谈。

Translated: I’m sure he’d tried to learn to speak – if he’d succeeded, we could have spoken more directly.

Suggested: I’m sure he’d tried to learn to speak – if he’d succeeded, we could have had heart-to-heart conversations.

"倾心之谈"也许是王小波的标志性语言之一了,<黄金时代>中--"她说道:你请我来吃鱼,做倾心之谈,鱼在哪里?我只好说,鱼还在河里。她说好吧,还剩下一个倾心之谈。就在这儿谈罢。"这句话不知为什么,想起来我就觉得好玩儿.

(Roddy: 倾心之谈 might be one of Wang Xiaobo's catchphrases. From Golden Era - "She said, you invited me round for fish and a heart to heart. Where's the fish? I had to tell her it was still in the river. She said ok, we've still got that heart to heart, so lets have it". I don't know why, but I always think that sentence is funny. )

另一个印象比较深刻的是"摧残",不过这恐怕源自他钟爱的Duras<情人>中的那句经典:"我是特为来告诉你,对我来说,我觉得现在你比年轻的时候更美,那时你是年轻女人,与你那时的面貌相比,我更爱你现在备受摧残的面容。"我觉得王小波的“摧残”用得也很好:“在山上她也觉得很有趣…但是同样的事做多了就不再有趣。所以她还想下山,忍受人世的摧残。”“那一瞬间她终于明白了在世界上有些什么,下一瞬间她就下定了决心,走上前来,接受摧残,心里快乐异常”

(Another one I remember is 摧残, which I'm afraid might have come from Dumas's 'The Lover', which he adored "One day, I was already old, in the entrance of a public place, a man came up to me. He introduced himself and said: "I've known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you're more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged." I think Wang Xiaobo used 摧残 very well: "She loved it up on the mountain . . .but if you do something too often, it stops being interesting. So she wanted to go down and bear the ravages of the world." "In that moment she finally realised what was in the world, and in the next she decided to go forward, to accept its ravages, and felt uncommonly happy. ")

(very rough translations edited in by Roddy, I hope the poster won't object). Quote from The Lover.

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gato
Another one I remember is 摧残, which I'm afraid might have come from Dumas's 'The Lover', which he adored

Interesting. How could you be sure it's from "The Lover"? Are you saying that 摧残 (or ravage) is not commonly used in Chinese?

是因为“摧残”这词其他地方很少用吗?

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badatpool

Thanks Roddy for his translation :D .

关于"摧残",我想我仅仅是"直觉上"的认为,除了王小波对于杜拉斯<情人>的热爱有目共睹之外(他已在众多文章中提到),我还记得在他某篇小说(我现在想不起来是哪篇了 :oops: )的序言里谈到影响他文字创作的有限的几位人士中特别提起王道乾(<情人>的译者),这也许因此会造成我的联想.

"摧残"以往常常用于更惨烈的情形,现代小说中有时出现将“老生常谈”中的语汇错位,有"醒目"之效外,也是对其意义本身的重新定位(但现在有人错用了这种定位,既不好玩儿也不好看).

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gato

badatpool (but improving),

你很有学问呀!我刚开始读王小波的时候,我觉得他写的有点像Kafka,一位大陆作家这样写使我觉得很好奇。后来看了他写的一些散文,发现他下乡的时候读了许多外文文学,肯定影响了他的写法跟想法。这才是鲁迅精神呢!

He also referred to Ovid's "Metamorphosis" quite a lot. Glad that they at least had some books with them while they were being re-educated to be like peasants. Maybe they even had more freedom in the countryside than they would have had if they had stayed in the cities during the Cultural Revolution.

王朔哪时候留在北京,是吗?这两位的思想我觉得有挺大区别的。王朔写的有些隐藏的愤怒,也有不少的自满,王小波写的虽然幽默多了,但总是有点悲惨。

[Didn't Wang Shuo stay in Beijing during that time? I feel that the two's thoughts/style are quite different. Wang Shuo's writing has a great deal of hidden anger and also not a little self-righteousness. Wang Xiaobo's writing, though quite a bit more humorous than Wang Shuo's, holds within a great deal of sadness.]

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roddy

Ok, I printed out the above commments and went over them carefully - I think most of them are now in the text, to its great benefit. Thanks to all for the help. I've annotated the text where I made some of the changes to explain / query where necessary. Further comments are of course welcome (there are a couple of question in the notes) but I wouldn't imagine I'm going to reedit this.

A Peculiar Pig

When they sent me to the countryside, I fed pigs and herded cows. Of course, these animals could manage fine without people. They’d saunter about eating and drinking, falling in love as spring comes. Simple lives, nothing of consequence. But when people come along, their lives get organized. Each cow, every pig, they all get given a purpose. For most, it’s a tragic one. The former laboring, the latter fattening. I don’t think that’s much to complain about though. My life at the time wasn’t much better – nothing to do but watch the revolutionary operas.

A few cows and pigs though, get their own purpose(1). Take pigs. The boar and the sow have got more to do than just eat, even if(2) they didn’t seem to like it that much to me(3). The boar’s mission is to mate - you might say it was our policy to let him sleep around. But only when they brought out a barrow (a castrated boar) did the worn-out boar act like a real man, leaping up onto the sow’s back. The sow’s mission was to bear children, but some ate them instead. Anyway, people make pigs miserable, but they still cope. Pigs are pigs, after all.

It’s only people that make all these arrangements, and not just for animals. In Sparta, things were arranged to the point of monotony, to turn the men into fearless fighters and the women into breeding machines, one like fighting cocks, the other a herd of sows. Very special animals, but they can’t have enjoyed their lives. What could they do though? People, animals - none of us(23) can change our fate.

There was one pig I fed who was a bit different. He was about four or five, a barrow but dark and thin with bright eyes. This one was agile like a goat, bounding a meter high fence in a single leap, or jumping cat-like onto the roof of the pen. He was always wandering about, hardly ever staying inside the fence. Us young intellectuals treated him like a pet, and he was my favorite too – because he only liked us. He’d let us get close to him, but he’d run from anyone else. Being male, he should have been castrated – but just you try it. He’d sniff out the spaying knife hidden behind your back and stare and snort at you.

I always fed him the best of the slops, and only when he’d finished would I pour the rest on the ground for the others. They all got jealous and filled the air with their wailing(4), but neither of us cared(5). When he’d had enough he’d jump onto the roof to sunbathe or practice his sounds. He could do a car horn, a tractor – all very accurate.

Sometimes you wouldn’t see him all day. I think he must have gone to the nearby township looking for sows. We had sows, but they were all locked up in the pen, distorted by too many pregnancies, dirty and smelly - so he wasn’t interested. The township’s sows were a bit better looking. He had a lot of interesting stories to tell, I’m sure(6). I didn’t feed the pigs for long though(7), so I don’t know too many and I might as well skip them altogether(8).

Anyway, all the young intellectuals who did pig-feeding duty(9) liked this independent pioneer, and said he lived with style. The villagers weren’t that romantic though, they called him abnormal. The leaders even hated him, as we’ll see later. I didn’t just like him – I respected him. Sometimes I even forgot how old I was, and thought of him as my elder brother (10).

Like I said, this brother of mine copied loads of sounds. I’m sure he’d tried to learn to speak – if only (11) he’d succeeded, we could have spoken heart-to-heart (12). You can’t just (13) blame him though. Pigs’ and peoples’ voices are too different. Later, he learnt to copy a steam whistle, and this got him in trouble. There was a sugar factory there, and the whistle on the boiler would blow at noon for the change of shift. When we heard it from the fields we would finish and come back. My pig brother would jump up on the roof at ten every morning to practice his steam whistling, and everyone in the fields would hear it and come back – an hour and a half earlier than the sugar factory’s whistle.

To be honest, it wasn’t all(14) his fault. It’s not as if he was really a boiler, and the sound was different, but the villagers always claimed(24) they couldn’t tell. So, the leaders had a meeting and accused him of being a bad element, ruining the spring plowing. They threatened to punish him. I knew what the meetings were for, but I wasn’t worried. Even if punishment meant ropes and knives, they’d have no chance. The previous leaders had tried, but even a hundred people couldn’t catch him. Dogs weren’t any use – pig brother moved like a torpedo(15), knocking them(16) through the air. But who could have known they’d be out in force this time?

The political instructor brought 20-odd people with May 4th rifles, the assistant political instructor had a dozen with firelocks and they trapped him between two lines outside the pigpen. And what should I have done? As his friend(17) I should have grabbed a pair of pig-slaughtering knives and run up to him, standing shoulder to shoulder. But that seemed just a bit too odd – I mean, a pig’s a pig, after all. Plus, I didn’t dare go against the leaders, and maybe that was the real reason.

So, I watched from the side, admiring his composure as he stood firm between the guns. The men shouted and the dogs barked, yet he didn’t budge. That way, if the rifles fired they’d kill the men with pistols, and vice versa. And if they both fired, they’d all die. But he was a smaller target, and he’d probably be fine(18). After a few circuits he found a gap, pushed his way through and fled proudly(19).

(20)I saw him once, in the sugarcane fields. He’d grown tusks, and he recognized me, but he wouldn’t let me get close. His coldness made me sad, but I could understand why he wanted to keep his distance from us people and our dark plans.

I’m forty now, and apart from that pig I’ve seen no one who dared to ignore (21) life’s constraints like that. Yet I’ve seen plenty who want to organize other people’s lives, and others who simply(22) accept life’s organizations. And so, I always remember that peculiar pig.

(1) My bad, I simply misread the Chinese.

(2) Wanted something a bit stronger then 'although' here

(3) Closer to the original now

(23) - this one was an afterthought - I changed 'neither can change their fate' to 'none of us' to emphasize the fundamental brotherhood of man and animals. Seriously.

(4) The original is 鬼哭狼叫 - devil cry wolf howl. Cries wasn't enough, and pigs can't howl, so I chose wail.

(5) 'We didn't care', as pointed out, could have been writer + pig or the young intellectuals. I think 'neither of us' clears this up and also brings the writer and pig brother together.

(6) I just found this sentence very dry, so I added in 'I'm sure'.

(7) Moved a 'but' into a 'though', for reasons which escape me now.

(8) Is this better? I haven't come across 素性 before.

(9) 'who fed the pigs' made me think they were just doing it for fun, so I changed it to a duty.

(10) I found the translation of 猪兄 problematic - I think 'pig brother' jars in English, but what else should it be? I was happy to get rid of it once here, but I have one query. Does the Chinese mean a) I forgot I was older than the pig and referred to him as 'pig elder brother' (and it should have been pig younger brother). or b) I forgot how old I was and thought of him as my brother (which was a childish thing to do.? 请多指教

(11) to (14) Suggestions used, thankyou.

(24) Am I right in saying that using 硬说 implies that the person doing the 硬说ing is lying or mistaken? If so I think 'claimed' is best. Otherwise I guess you could use insisted, but I think there's little to choose between the two.

(15) Eel. Torpedo. Torpedo. Eel. Good thing I never joined the navy.

(16) Removed repetition of 'dog'.

(17) It was pointed out to me that 'This brought me dilemma' was pretty clumsy, so I've (hopefully) smoothed this bit out.

(18) Just failed to understand the Chinese here.

(19) I decided 'fled proudly' made a bit more sense than 'magnificently', but I'm not sure how much difference it makes.

(20) Adding a 'Later' here was suggested, and it is in the original. However, I didn't like the way it sounded in the same sentence as 'once', and I thought the 'once' was more important. Plus, the bit about tusks makes it clear some time has passed.

(21) Hope this is phrased better

(22) Is 'simply' a good one here? It seemed a better choice to me than comfortably.

Thanks again

Roddy

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