Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

Reading Yu Hua's "To Live"


daofeishi
 Share

Recommended Posts

bummer, I was reading the book at the same time as you all were but wasn't on the site then.

Recommend it to all.

Does anyone know where there is a pdf of the english version? Not looking to read the whole thing but rather would like to compare a section that I translated to what that Berry did.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

  • 9 months later...

Hi, I'm new to this forum. :) I was reading 活着 online from the links in this thread. However there are some characters which appears as an * (asterisk) or it doesn't make sense at all. Please help with the following sentences:

(第二章)

轮到龙二时,龙二将那颗骰子放在七点上,这小子伸出手掌使劲一拍,喊了一** "七点。"

(第二章)

第三天,我爹在自己屋里接待客人,他响亮地咳嗽着,一旦说话时声音又低得*坏健*到了晚上的时候,我娘走过来对我说,爹叫我过去。

(第三章)

那天晚上,长根在我家茅屋里过的。我和娘商量着把长根留在家里,这样一来*兆踊岣*苦,我对娘说:

(第三章)

凤霞是个好孩子,我们从砖瓦的*课莅岬矫?堇*去住,她照样高高兴兴,吃起粗粮来也不往外吐。

(第五章)

屋顶的茅*荼纠淳*发霉了,加上昨天又下了一场雨,他们怎么也烧不起来。

(第六章)

那一个月的雨下过去后,连着几天的大热天,田里的稻子全烂了,一到晚上,*绱倒*是一片片的臭味,跟死人的味道差不多。

(第六章)

别人家挖野菜都是蹲下去,她是跪到地上,站起来时身体直打晃,我见了心里不好受*运担* "你就别出门了。"

(第六章)

和王四争地瓜的第二天,家珍拄着根树枝走出了村口,我在田里见了问她去哪*担* "我进城去看看爹。"

(第八章)

坐了一会,他站起来说要*吡耍*想这门亲事算是完了。他都没怎么看凤霞,老看我们的破烂屋子。

(第十章)

定下来叫它福贵,我左看右看都觉得它像我,心里美滋滋的,后来村里人也开*妓滴颐橇礁龊*像,我嘿嘿笑,心想我早就知道它像我了。

Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not interested in Yu Hua and his books. But there is an extremely easy way to solve your problem. Just paste the good part of those sentences in google and search for other versions. There are bound to be some versions that are free of such gibberish. Here is what I have found -

1. 喊了一:「七點。」

2. 一旦說話時聲音又低得聽不清。

3. 這樣一來日子會更苦,

4. 我們從磚瓦的房屋搬到茅房裏去住,

5. 屋頂的茅草本來就發霉了

6. 一到晚上,風吹過來是一片片的臭味,

7. 我見了心裏不好受,對她說:

8. 我在田裏見了問她去哪兒,她說:

9. 他站起來說要走了,我想這門親事算是完了。

10. 後來村裏人也開始說我們兩個很

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...

Just finished reading this book last night, first Chinese novel I've read. A well-written but very depressing read! It only dawned at the end of the book the significance of the names 富贵 chosed to recite to his 牛, sad old guy.

Advice for those reading a novel for the first time such as this time: Put effort into learning all the characters you don't know as you read the book as this makes the process progressively much more pleasant in my experience (e.g. drilling each new character in anki - separately, in words, and sentences works for me). Perhaps when you get to ten new characters a day stop reading for the day and learn those characters properly. Each day you can read more and more.

I found it quite challenging to read this book at the beginning, but the new characters/words I had learnt used kept popping up over and over again during the book. By the end I felt very comfortable reading the book and knocked off the last 50 pages yesterday.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
  • 1 month later...

Slowly getting through this book. Up to page 20. It's not at all difficult grammar wise, just the huge amounts of new vocabulary are slowly me down. Every sentence I need to check a few words. This is the first "real" Chinese book I've read and I'm loving it. Even though it's going slow, I feel like every sentence is gold. I'm flashcard drilling everything in Pleco as I go then deleting it once it starts taking up too much time (following imron's advice).

 

I have a question though: a lot of the writing in this book seems quite colloquial and or 書面. I'm wondering how much of this can be understood by Chinese speakers when I'm using it or when I try to speak it. For example, would a Chinese speaker understand "不住气" in spoken language? This phrase is listed in the ABC dictionary as "ADV. TOPO. without letup; continuously" - Other words marked as a part of a topolect seem to cause no trouble, and I assume this book is easily readable by all Chinese, yet when I tried to use this adverb with some Chinese people it caused confusion.

 

I also guess that 揖 (yi1) in spoken language would not be understood right?

 

Stuff like 斟酒,斟茶 also caused some scrunched up faces. Though it seems it could be understood, it's not something a Mandarin speaker would say themselves.

 

I'm quickly starting to realise that reading real Chinese works is quite different from my textbooks, abridged stories, graded readers, etc in that the language in novels isn't actually a "spoken language". When people talked about 白話 and 書面 I just thought it was a difference between "classical" writing and modern vernacular, but it seems even the most popular and accessible Chinese novels are not actually 白話...... Jesus.....  Talk about an undemocratic language.

 

So how does one know when a phrase is something that belongs to the spoken language and when it is literary (I mean some stuff is obvious, but what about something like 斟酒)? Do you just have to try and "roadtest" as many words as possible? It seems like that would cause a lot of aggravation for the Chinese people I'd have to use as my test subjects.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So how does one know when a phrase is something that belongs to the spoken language and when it is literary

Practice and experience.

 

Also if it's part of some dialog that a character is saying it's more likely to be spoken language, whereas if it's describing events, circumstances or surroundings it's more likely to be written language.  I think Yu Hua generally writes quite colloquial language rather than formal stuff, and the more you read the more you'll be able to pick up which authors prefer a more literary style and which ones don't.

 

As you read more novels, you'll also notice the same phrases popping up again and again - pay attention to them and apply the same tests above about whether or not they are dialog or description.

 

If multiple authors across multiple novels have multiple characters using similar sentence constructions when speaking dialog, then it's a good bet that it's something quite common in spoken language.  If you mix up your studying to also include things like TV shows and speaking with native speakers you'll also start noticing which phrases and structures are common.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

I'd just like to back what some people said about this being an "easy" book. I've read over a dozen books now and this seemed to be the easiest by far. I think I only had to look up around 20 words in the entire book (mostly agricultural related vocab like 田埂 and 锄, plus some revolution era vocab like 走资派). Of course the first ever proper book you read in Chinese is always going to be a bit of a struggle, but the story is pretty straightforward, there are no lengthy flowery descriptions (eg of the rays of the setting sun reflecting on someone's face), and the author goes pretty light on the 成语 and 俗话 too. 

 

I watched (and absolutely loved) the film a few years ago so knew to expect a pretty gloomy storyline, but damn, the book makes the film seem like a feel-good comedy!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I'm almost at the end of the book now. 30 pages to go. It's getting really easy to read. This is probably because (as with StChris) I've learnt all the the farming vocabulary (and a lot of other vocabulary I wasn't used to before) and gotten used to 余華‘s style.

 

I don't think the book is sadder than the movie. In fact, I have a stronger impression of the movie than I do the book. More than anything the book has reminded me of things I experienced during my trips in China - for example, the "ranking" of cigarettes, and the way it's important to carry around a pack - even as a non-smoker - to offer to people, and the way children always have a "candy pocket" on the front of their clothes.

 

When I think back to how I started off I'm surprised how much better I am at reading written Chinese. The results are encouraging. It makes me think that if I can apply this kind of dedication to listening I can hopefully make similar gains. What starts off as grinding pages quickly turns into relatively easy and, dare I say, enjoyable, exercise.

 

More than directly improving my reading comprehension one thing this book has taught me is to be more comfortable with ambiguity. I often use to be fastidious about understanding every word, point and character as I went. Now I'm happy just to skip something and/or work out the meaning from the context. Sometimes just reading on makes clear what I did not understand previously. Often I'll underline bits I need to look at later and come back to it. Sometimes I just leave it alone entirely.

 

My Chinese ability is getting really lopsided now. I can read novels, but my speaking and listening skills are still far, far behind. My speaking is almost non-existent. I find it hard to express anything in detail and struggle to produce many basic sentences. That doesn't bother me so much as my poor listening ability. I really want to be able to understand what I hear, even if I can't respond. Often when I'm around groups of Chinese I can only make out the rough topic of conversation. Never the details. My "listening" power also seems to dissipate pretty quickly. After 10 minutes of listening I lose most of my concentration then quickly lose track of the conversation.

 

I'm planning to hit up some TV dramas with the same dedication I have this book. I've watched 2-3 hour long episodes before but the terrible, terrible, stories and acting, and the sheer amount of time it took me were disheartening. But probably my major problem is that it seems very hard to do this kind of listening practice on public transport (which is my "Chinese study time"). Trying to rewind on a small phone screen, the battery drain, the data usage, etc it's just too fussy. I've tried listening to audio books, but I just lose concentration after a while. I'd rather do a careful line by line listening. Again something difficult to do on public transport. I'll have to find some other spare time to do it. Maybe just keep reading on the bus. I have a book filled with short stories by 汪曾祺 I might try next.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I think back to how I started off I'm surprised how much better I am at reading written Chinese. The results are encouraging. It makes me think that if I can apply this kind of dedication to listening I can hopefully make similar gains. What starts off as grinding pages quickly turns into relatively easy and, dare I say, enjoyable, exercise.

Yes!  This is exactly the sort of thing I have been saying for a long time now.   Regularly practise the skills you want to get good at, and you'll get good at them.  SRS drills are no substitute for actually doing the thing you want to get good at.

 

My "listening" power also seems to dissipate pretty quickly. After 10 minutes of listening I lose most of my concentration then quickly lose track of the conversation.

I bet your "reading" power also seemed to dissipate pretty quickly before you started to exercise it regularly, and then it got better.  The same thing will happen with listening if you do put in the effort.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
 one thing this book has taught me is to be more comfortable with ambiguity. I often use to be fastidious about understanding every word, point and character as I went. Now I'm happy just to skip something and/or work out the meaning from the context. Sometimes just reading on makes clear what I did not understand previously. Often I'll underline bits I need to look at later and come back to it. Sometimes I just leave it alone entirely.

 

A few years ago I tried to read a book in Chinese and after underlining pretty much half the words on the first two pages promptly gave up.  Employing the method you describe here works wonders.  There's simply no point stopping to look up words like 锄 (it's obviously going to be some sort of tool) or 埂 (from the way its used its pretty obvious what this is, especially if you've ever seen rice fields).  Also, there were some points when I didn't know exactly what some sentences meant, but stopping to look stuff up and work it out would have broken the flow and I'd have never got anywhere.

 

So, I just finished reading this book, it was also my first Chinese novel.  I watched the movie a while ago and really liked it and I found being familiar with the story helped me chug along through the text.  There are a lot of differences between the novel and the film and while this is well known it still surprised me - like the whole shadow puppets thing they put into the movie.  I also found the movie to be a lot more overtly political.  Granted some of the allusions in the book may have been lost on me due to the language but I feel like the movie really hit you in the face with the whole 二喜 painting Mao's portrait on the wall (rather than fixing the roof) and the wedding scene with all the little red books.

 

The most interesting and moving parts of the film for me were those based around events during the cultural revolution - I'll never forget the scene where 福贵 has to burn his treasured shadow puppet set (also a scene not found in the movie).  However, I found the books focus on poverty and the great leap forward to be much more powerful.  The descriptions of eating bark off trees and there just being literally nothing to eat, to the extent that a small bowl of rice becomes a meal you'll never forget for the rest of your life really stuck out.

 

One part that really bugged me that I didn't get was when they were smelting the iron.  Now, I'm not expert (damn waste of time Chemistry degree) so forgive me if it's actually straightforward but they're taking everyone's pots and pans etc. and trying to turn out some iron that they can ship off somewhere and make in to artillery to fire at Taiwan.  They buy the thing they're going to boil up the iron in and the 队长 complains about how small it is so they say they'll just have to do it all one pot at a time.  Then they spend ages boiling it up and there's no mention again of the one pot at a time bit.  Also, 有庆 says they should put water on top to stop the bottom burning, now 福贵 concedes that this is a terrible idea and sure enough, once the water boils off the iron is ready but surely they should have known this?  Or is the point here to illustrate just how ignorant they all were and how futile the whole project was?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...