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Reading Yu Hua's "To Live"


daofeishi
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Hi everyone! I'm thinking of joining you and reading the 活着. I need to read a Chinese book, my first one, for my 阅读 course and 活着 seems to be one of the easiests books around. My teacher did recommen me reading something about modern life (because of more familiar vocabulary), but I'm not sure if I'm able to find anything easier that 活着.

I'll ask my teacher what she thinks and maybe start reading this week!

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Edit: See Post #55 for a complete overview.

An update on the audio recordings of http://www.youshengw...ntent/1287.html

1

Ends with 我年轻时吃喝嫖赌,什么浪荡的事都干过。 (p. 10)

2

Starts with 我年轻时吃喝嫖赌,什么浪荡的事都干过。 (p. 10)

Ends with 家珍那天晚上被拖走后,我就开始倒霉了 (p. 19)

3

Starts with 早上几年的时候,家珍还是一个女学生。 (p. 18)

Ends with 我对他喊:“别叫我少爷,叫我畜生。” (p. 26)

4

Starts with 白天,还完债 。我一个人往家里走去,走走哭哭,哭哭走走。

Actually my book has: 一天下来,我的绸衣磨破了,肩上的皮肉渗出了血。我一个人往家里走去,走走哭哭,哭哭走走。 (p. 26)

Ends with 可是我再也没遇到一个像福贵这样令我难忘的人了(p. 35)

5

Starts with 和福贵相遇,使我对以后收集民谣的日子充满快乐的期待 (p. 35)

Ends with 家珍的身体挡住了光线,身体闪闪发亮。 (p. 44)

6

Starts with 家珍是在有庆半岁的时候回来的。 (p. 43)

Ends with 他们回到自己的坑道后,一条条煮米饭的炊烟就升了起来,在空中扭来扭去。 (p. 53)

7

Starts with 被包围以后,我们的粮食和弹药全靠空投。 (p. 53)

Ends with 我的心提到了嗓子眼,那个长官肯定会拔出手枪来毙他们,就跟我们连长一样。 (p. 62)

8

Starts with 一听说可以回家,我的心扑扑乱跳,

Actually my book has: 一听可以回家,我的心扑扑乱跳, (p. 61)

Ends with 他们说只要勤快就行。 (p. 70)

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It has been over a week, and I am sorry I have not made a follow up on last weeks reading. I have been extremely busy lately and have not had the time to finish the reading or put together questions for discussion. Peiruo and jkhsu are the only ones who have made any posts about their progress so far, so I assume that there are more people in the same boat. I don't want to be a drag on the project, so I think we should assign some more readings. If we find next week that we are going too fast, we can slow down a bit or give some extra time for people who need to catch up. I will post questions and comments about the last reading when things have calmed down later this week and I have had time to catch up.

The reading for next week is: p. 19 to 44 (家珍那天晚上被拖走后... to 家珍的身体挡住了光线,身体闪闪发亮)

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Here are my comments / questions for this week:

After he loses his money and comes back home, his mom says:

上梁不正下梁歪啊

I am assuming she is referring to the fact that his dad was a gambler who lost his money [上梁不正] and that it's expected that his son would also do the same [下梁歪]? In other words, a house built on a bad foundation is bound to topple.

到这时我才知道爹为什么不要银元偏要铜钱,他就是要我知道这个道理,要我知道钱来得千难万难。

This was a pretty clever act by his dad to have him carry the copper money (heavier) to teach him that money is hard to come by. Does anyone know how many copper coins (I am assuming they are coins?) equals a silver coin? I couldn't find this info.

"从前,我们徐家的老祖宗不过是养了一只小鸡,鸡养大后变成了鹅,鹅养大了变成了羊,再把羊养大,羊就变成了牛。我们徐家就是这样发起来的."

  爹的声音里咝咝的,他顿了顿又说:

"到了我手里,徐家的牛变成了羊,羊又变成了鹅。传到你这里,鹅变成了鸡,现在是连鸡也没啦."

I guess his dad is saying that while he also gambled the family fortunes away, he didn't lose everything (while his son lost everything). Then again, his son started with only a goose, not an ox. But I suspect whatever he started with, he would have lost it all anyways.

那几天我娘常对我说:

"人只要活得高兴,穷也不怕."

她是在宽慰我,她还以为我是被穷折腾成这样的,其实我心里想着的是我死去的爹。我爹死在我手里了,我娘我家珍,还有凤霞却要跟着我受活罪。

I think he's really lucky to have such supportive women (his mom, wife and daughter) around him. Without them, where would he be?

你过来,你这畜生,怎么不来向我请安了?畜生你听着,当初是怎么娶走家珍的,我今日也怎么接她回去。你看看,这是花轿,这是锣鼓,比你当初娶亲时只多不少.

This is what 家珍's dad says to him before he takes 家珍 away. Is it true that during that time, a married woman's parents (her dad in this case) can take her away from her husband at anytime? Also when he says "比你当初娶亲时只多不少" is he saying that when 家珍 got married, she got less of a treatment than now?

可是我再也没遇到一个像福贵这样令我难忘的人了,对自己的经历如此清楚,又能如此精彩地讲述自己。他是那种能够看到自己过去模样的人,他可以准确地看到自己年轻时走路的姿态,甚至可以看到自己是如何衰老的。这样的老人在乡间实在难以遇上,也许是困苦的生活损坏了他们的记忆,面对往事他们通常显得木讷,常常以不知所措的微笑搪塞过去。他们对自己的经历缺乏热情,仿佛是道听途说般地只记得零星几点,即便是这零星几点也都是自身之外的记忆,用一、两句话表达了他们所认为的一切。在这里,我常常听到后辈们这样骂他们:

"一大把年纪全活到狗身上去了."

In this context what does "一大把年纪全活到狗身上去了" mean?

From this link it says:

http://nboard.nciku.com/qna/question/10000000000000062503

"一大把年纪全活到狗身上去了”是指责某些人光长年纪,不长见识,是浪费时间,虚度青春。英文也有“Getting older, not smarter”。这是话糙理不糙!

Does it really mean "Getting older, not smarter" in this context? It seems like these people had such painful pasts that they blocked out their memories on purpose.

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I've finished my 'easy' reads. My remaining books are just too hard. Ordering and waiting for new ones takes too long so I decided to dive into this one. It's well above my level, but objectively I tend to say it should be doable. It has only about 1900 unique 汉字 and only about 1300 of them occur more than twice. In the ideal situation the 汉字 I've studied matches perfectly with the most used ones in the book I should know about 97-98%. I guess 95% is a bit more realistic estimate.

I started today and finished about 1% of the book:) Took me quite a bit more time and effort making it hard to read more than a couple of paragraphs at a time. Most interesting find was 十月怀胎.

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Finally got in my hard copy, so I've started up on this. I'm up through about page 20. It started out tougher than I was expecting, actually. I wasn't expecting the change of perspective. It is good fun thus far. Plenty vulgar and disrespectful. I'm reading first, then going back and listening. The listening definitely adds a layer of comprehension since the narrator puts emotion into things. Having the chapter breaks for the audio files has been a huge help, thanks.

Fyi - the audiobook recordings BertR points to are streaming from tudou, see chapter 1 here. I've been downloading them and converting to mp3.

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First of all, I'm really enjoying this book so far. To all those not sure if you're ready to read a novel, I suggest just diving in and getting into it. You don't have to understand every word to get a lot out of the book. I would like to see more people posting opinions/observations/questions on here.

Vocab Question: When 福贵's father is talking to him for the first time after learning that 福贵 has bankrupted the family, he says "我把一百多亩地,还有这房子都低押出去了". I assume "低押" is supposed to be 抵押 meaning mortgage? In that case "抵押出去“ means to default on the mortgage? Thanks for the help.

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First of all, I'm really enjoying this book so far.

I've joined in too and agree wholeheartedly.

To all those not sure if you're ready to read a novel, I suggest just diving in and getting into it.

I also agree. My method has been to read the novel in Pleco, so that I can have instant access to a pop-up dictionary, and to buy the English translation to check expressions I still didn't understand. (I also wanted to give at least something monetary back in order to reward the author.) For quite awhile, I have been amazed at what a leg up pop-up dictionaries can give you. I was able to occasionally read Chinese for substance long before I thought I would be able. This novel is another example.

Despite the excellent advice given in previous posts, I look up every unknown word; however, I use this as a way of deepening my understanding of the grammar and complex sentence structure. In doing this, I have been amazed at the number of items that show up in Pleco's ABC dictionary as dialect. Is this normal in Chinese novels, or is it just for local color? Two examples that come to mind and that keep repeating are 半晌 and 泥巴. Also, 脚丫子.

I also had a brief stint without access to a dictionary and ended up reading way ahead because of interest in the story, but without a real appreciation for much of the vividness of the writing which I could not understand without looking up words.

One interesting aspect of the book is its vivid depiction of the culture of the times and sometimes even an echo of the difference in culture assumed for the reader. I find 富贵's treatment of his father-in-law beyond shocking and the minimal response of onlookers almost as baffling. I think my idea of Chinese "face" may not have been adequate or may have been too much based on similar ideas in other cultures.

I assume "低押" is supposed to be 抵押 meaning mortgage? In that case "抵押出去“ means to default on the mortgage? Thanks for the help.

I had a question about this as well, but did not hit upon your solution. I wonder, however, whether 抵押出去" really means "default" or just "mortgage (away)" or "pawn." Perhaps the conditions or connotations of mortgages were just different during those times and more the equivalent of what you do at a pawnshop in the U.S. In other words, until you repay the loan, you actually lose possession of the item.

Two situations I did not understand, despite the English translations were as follows:

我念过几年私塾,穿长衫的私塾先生叫我念一段书时,是我最高兴的。我站起来,拿着本线装的《千字文》,对私塾先生说:

  “好好听着,爹给你念一段。”

  年过花甲的私塾先生对我爹说:

  “你家少爷长大了准能当个二流子。”

What are the implications of saying: 爹给你念一段? And what is the literal meaning of 准能当? It seems to mean "may become," but I do not understand the construction. Can someone help?

The other thing I did not understand was the denouement of the gambling scene between 龙二 and 沈先生. I understood the literary device that "explained" the outcome, but I could not imagine a game of 5-Card Stud (or some similar type of poker game) that actually could yield that result, given the cards mentioned. I am wondering if I am missing some of the grammar that is not revealed by the English translation. Could someone explain with a spoiler alert for those who may not have reached that far?

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  • 2 weeks later...

The reading for next week is: p. 19 to 44 (家珍那天晚上被拖走后... to 家珍的身体挡住了光线,身体闪闪发亮)

Has everyone done this part of the reading? I was wondering if we can move on to the next part for this week or wait another week?

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I'm at page 89, so you don't have to wait for me.

Recently I don't have a lot of spare time and don't visit this forum as much as I used to do. One of the many reasons is that our son is predicted to be born in around 2 weeks, so there is a lot to be taken care of currently, but I'm trying to read a little bit every day.

Actually I already figured out the first and last sentence of all recordings, but I still have to look up the page number in my book. I'll try to do this in the evening and post an update.

I'm reading the paper edition and don't do any look-ups while reading. I don't like looking up things while reading. But before I start a new chapter I however extract the most useful new words and the words I don't really know yet out of the chapter with some tools I wrote (it knows which words I already learned, word frequency statistics, HSK statistics, SRS statistics and so on) and I mark these words in the book and often add the translation and/or pinyin.

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I'm up to page 50 or so. I'm really enjoying it. There is obviously plenty of misery for these poor characters, but I feel like 福贵's tone when narrating makes it quite bearable. He seems to get a kick out of himself.

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I finally made it through the recordings and found the corresponding pages in my book!

So the audio can be found on these 3 websites:

The text is split up in 21 chapters (章). Every recording starts with the same text, which is actually coming from the last page of the book, but with the sentences in a different order. Around 1 minute and 9 seconds, the "chapter" really beings (this is for every recording the case).

1

Ends with 我年轻时吃喝嫖赌,什么浪荡的事都干过。 (p. 10)

2

Starts with 我年轻时吃喝嫖赌,什么浪荡的事都干过。 (p. 10)

Ends with 家珍那天晚上被拖走后,我就开始倒霉了 (p. 19)

3

Starts with 早上几年的时候,家珍还是一个女学生。 (p. 18)

Ends with 我对他喊:“别叫我少爷,叫我畜生。” (p. 26)

4

Starts with 白天,还完债 。我一个人往家里走去,走走哭哭,哭哭走走。

Actually my book has: 一天下来,我的绸衣磨破了,肩上的皮肉渗出了血。我一个人往家里走去,走走哭哭,哭哭走走。 (p. 26)

Ends with 可是我再也没遇到一个像福贵这样令我难忘的人了(p. 35)

5

Starts with 和福贵相遇,使我对以后收集民谣的日子充满快乐的期待 (p. 35)

Ends with 家珍的身体挡住了光线,身体闪闪发亮。 (p. 44)

6

Starts with 家珍是在有庆半岁的时候回来的。 (p. 43)

Ends with 他们回到自己的坑道后,一条条煮米饭的炊烟就升了起来,在空中扭来扭去。 (p. 53)

7

Starts with 被包围以后,我们的粮食和弹药全靠空投。 (p. 53)

Ends with 我的心提到了嗓子眼,那个长官肯定会拔出手枪来毙他们,就跟我们连长一样。 (p. 62)

8

Starts with 一听说可以回家,我的心扑扑乱跳,

Actually my book has: 一听可以回家,我的心扑扑乱跳, (p. 61)

Ends with 他们说只要勤快就行。 (p. 70)

9

Starts with 凤霞被领走那天 (p. 70)

Ends with “你们这一家啊,横看竖看还是不好看。” (p. 79)

10

Starts with 到了五八年,人民公社成立了 (p. 79)

Ends with 我就说:“恩 宰了才好了。”

My book has 我说:“宰了才好。” (p. 88)

11

Starts with 这天晚上,我们一家就守着汽油桶煮钢铁了

My book has 到了晚上,我们一家就守着汽油桶煮钢铁了(p. 88)

Ends with 还丢了我儿子的脸。 (p. 98)

12

Starts with 那天,我回到家里气还没消,把这事跟家珍说

我回到家里气还没消,把这事跟家珍说 (p. 98)

Ends with 她叹息一声,什么话也没说。 (p.106)

13

Starts with 那时候, 最难的是家珍

My book has 最难的是家珍 (p. 106)

Ends with 有真是在交代后事

My book has 她是在交代后事 (p. 115)

14

Starts with 那天晚上,家珍的眼泪流个不停 (p. 115)

Ends with 埋掉了有庆,天就蒙蒙亮了

My book has 埋掉了有庆,天蒙蒙亮了 (p. 124)

15

Starts with 我埋掉了儿子有庆,这时候天蒙蒙亮了

My book has 埋掉了有庆,天蒙蒙亮了 (p. 124)

Ends with 我一下子就愣住了。

My book has 我一下子愣住了。 (p. 132)

16

Starts with 有庆死后一个多月,春生来了。 (p. 132)

Ends with 像是城里的砖瓦房子 (p. 142)

17

Starts with 吃过午饭,二喜他们用石灰粉起了墙 (p. 142)

Ends with 从没人觉得队长说得不对 (p. 152)

18

Starts with 平日里队长可神气了 (p. 152)

Ends with 天黑前断了气 (p. 162)

19

Starts with 那天雪下得特别大, 谁料到我一走凤霞就出事了 (p. 162)

(in the book 那天雪下得特别大 is in the next paragraph)

Ends with 没了凤霞,二喜是再也没有回过魂来 (p. 169)

20

Starts with 没了凤霞,二喜是再也没有回过魂来 (p. 169)

Ends with 一转眼苦根到了七岁 (p. 178)

21

Starts with 这样的日子苦是苦,累也是累 (p. 177)

Ends with 土地召唤着黑夜来临 (p. 184)

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@BertR: Great post with the audio links and chapters. Also, congrats on the impending arrival of your baby boy. Lots of sleepless nights ahead.

Since you and @Gleaves are pretty far along, why don't we make the reading goal for this week (ending Sunday 10/23/11) to finish chapter 8? @daofeishi, any objections?

From @BertR's post:

8. Starts with 一听说可以回家,我的心扑扑乱跳,

Actually my book has: 一听可以回家,我的心扑扑乱跳, (p. 61)

Ends with 他们说只要勤快就行。 (p. 70)

I thought I'd give a status report of my reading experience using Perapera-kun. When I first started, it took me a while to get used to looking up words and getting through even a paragraph. However, after the first week, I started to just read without having to look up too many words at a time. Obviously, some paragraphs / sentences are harder than others but what I've realized is that even if I don't know every word, I can just continue reading the paragraph and fairly quickly, go back afterwards to verify the words that I guessed. This process isn't all that tedious or time consuming using the software while my memory is still fresh from reading. However, it would be time consuming trying to do this on a paper book. I've also noticed improvements in my reading when I went back to read text that are "at my level". This discovery is enlightening for me and now I'm going to add "reading books / text beyond your current reading level using software such as Perapera-kun" as part of my Chinese learning method. If possible, I'll probably try to average at least 15 to 30 minutes a day doing this.

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This discovery is enlightening for me and now I'm going to add "reading books / text beyond your current reading level using software such as Perapera-kun" as part of my Chinese learning method. If possible, I'll probably try to average at least 15 to 30 minutes a day doing this.

I really wish I'd started reading more novels earlier (most of my previous reading was newpaper articles and shorter passages). I only really started getting into novels regularly in the last 2 years even though I could have been doing it for much longer. It's a good feeling when you realise you can read Chinese, and it helps with so many other aspects of learning that it's definitely worth perservering to overcome the initially very high hurdle it takes to get to the point where you can do it comfortably.

What are the implications of saying: 爹给你念一段?

It's like he's saying to the teacher "Listen up. Your Daddy's gonna read you a passage". Basically he's putting himself a generation above his tutor, saying he's the tutor's elder, rather than the tutor being his elder, and is rather disrespectful.

And what is the literal meaning of 准能当? It seems to mean "may become," but I do not understand the construction. Can someone help?

I would say more "is sure to become", "will definitely be".

准 has several meanings, one of which is:

准:保准;一定 > 红队~能赢。

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Great-looking post guys. I'd love to join in when I find the time. By the way, has anyone come across a link to download the audio version that doesn't require you to install any software?

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I use a Firefox Add-on to download the mp3 and videos ( https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/addon/video-downloadhelper/ ), but for the videos on tudou you can use the website Gleaves posted ( http://www.flvcd.com/ ). To convert the video files these to mp3, you need extra software (I use http://www.smallvide...com/flv-to-mp3/ ).

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Since you and @Gleaves are pretty far along, why don't we make the reading goal for this week (ending Sunday 10/23/11) to finish chapter 8? @daofeishi, any objections?

No objections. All I can do right now is to give a short heads up and apologize that I haven't been more active on here the last few weeks. I didn't expect last year of college, with GREs, interviews, grad school applications and classes to be quite so time consuming (...a bit silly now in retrospect...), so I have been steeped in other stuff. We should take the time to provide a summary of where we are all at next week so we can try and coordinate some discussion. That is, after all, one of the reasons for reading the book together,.

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