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Eileen Chang's essay "Writing of one's Own" and other misc. writings


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6 hours ago, Fred0 said:


The sentence seems to progress fairly straight forwardly as I parse it:

倘要提高作者的自觉,Should we aspire to improve an author's self-awareness

则从作品中汲取理论,then we ought to derive theory from their [extant] work

而以之为作品的再生产的衡量,then take 以 that 之 and use it 为 as a measuring stick in further writing

自然是有益处的。this would of course be a profitable endeavour.


I might have got the wrong end of the stick as to the meaning of 作品的再生产 = the reproduction of literary work but I'm assuming Chang isn't using reproduction in some more abstract post-modern sense, which I could well be wrong about. Confident on how 而以之为 is working there though.

The gist is that it would be beneficial for an author to derive theoretical pointers from their past work to serve as reference material in their future writing, I think. It makes them more fully aware of what they are doing 提高作者的自觉

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2 hours ago, roddy said:

Seriously, congratulations

Same here. 


19 hours ago, Fred0 said:



I really like this construction, such an elegant way to describe a sequence.


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  • 2 weeks later...


In this epoch the old is crumbling and the new is just taking shape. But, until the new epoch has come fully into being, feeling resolved and definite about anything is the exception. Day to day we feel that everything is a little bit wrong, wrong to a frightening degree. Man's life happens within some epoch, but the modern world seems to sink away from us into the shadows, and we feel abandoned. To verify that we exist we look for something real and true to hold onto. The memory of the life that men have lived over the ages, compared to our hope for the future, is more definite and closely related to us who are living now.


As a result regarding our actual surroundings we are left with a strange feeling. We suspect that this is an absurdity, the ancient world, its darkeness and its brightness.

Does this mean compared to the ancient world, this one is dark and that one is light? She continues:


Between our memory and actuality we often discover an embarrassing disharmony, therefore serious and trivial disturbances arise, earnest and nameless struggles.

nameless struggles.


Please point out any other errors in my understanding of the text. 


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Here's my several cents:


I wouldn't add 'feeling' to 斩钉截铁的事物不过是例外, seems to be a plain statement that fixed and definite things are the exception.

Not vastly different from your version, but to me 日常的一切 is "everything everyday" - all the normal, quotidian aspects of life, and it's these people feel to be somehow wrong.

In 这时代却在影子似地沉没下去, the grammar has the epoch falling away from us like a shadow (rather than into the shadows) though don't find the meaning of that image very clear.

This seems missing from your version: 不能不求助于古老的记忆  "can only turn for help to ancient memories...", then what follows is more "memories from all the epochs that mankind has lived through."

Your highlighted line seems to be saying feelings of uncanniness lead mankind to suspect this is an absurdist version of the world of antiquity [to precis a bit freely], both dark and light [suggesting containing extremes, I think].

Lastly, maybe an 'awkward disharmony' would be better; seems to end saying that "gives rise to an unease at once solemn and frivolous, to struggles that are in deadly earnest yet have no name."


Overall I think you did very well. The Chinese is thought provoking and profound but written in fairly plain and clear language, I always find it a challenge not to make it sound pompous or pretentious in English when it isn't in the original.

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Thanks for bringing such interesting texts and questions. I'm looking at that sinking and shadows line now and wondering if it could be better interpreted as sinking into shadow. The 在 ought to have a temporal function in that position was my original take, but overall sinking into shadow does seem the more likely.

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On 2/27/2020 at 9:54 PM, Fred0 said:


 沒 always makes me feel like its about sinking into obscurity, I remember it is used in 書譜 in this way to talk about how the era of zhang zhi and zhong yao was overshadowed by wang xizhi and wang xianzhi ("可謂鐘張云沒,而羲献繼之" - here 云 is for rhythm only, and 繼 is something like 'takes over from'). Could it be that the metaphor is of one era overshadowing another? In which case the 在影子似地 could be both abstract and temporal, '(sinking away) as if in the shadow (of another era)'


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  • 4 weeks later...
Zhang here is describing a humourous skit that she saw at a BengBengXi performance. This was a preview to the main performance.
 I don't understand the punch-line at the end. Is the widow saying,  Would a stove that has not had a fire lit in it, send smoke up the chimney? Does she mean that it is the woman who is "having her fire lit" (by him), i.e. the fluzzy his ghost was tormenting on the road, would be the one whose chimney is smoking, i.e. the one who would be angry at him and murder him?
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She's asking rhetorical questions. 



"Please, your honour! Does not fire burn in everyone's stove? Does not smoke belch from every chimney pipe?"


Can't be sure but I think the implication is that stuff can happen to anyone, such as her husband getting sick and dying (although the point is in fact that she's murdered him, hence his ghost wandering).


ETA So I think it's getting a rousing cheer from the audience because under questioning for murder by the judge of Hell her attempt to wriggle out is essentially a claim that "well, y'know, shit happens" 

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So, you're saying that the 荡妇 who is described at the beginning is the widow at the grave at the end? In that case I misread the whole story. I thought the 荡妇 (fluzzy, slut, prostitute) was being tormented by the husband's ghost because she is the murderer, and the policeman chases the ghost back to its grave where he discovers the widow and believes incorrectly that she is the murderer.


So now it all becomes clear,  and I can see that your reading is correct. She is just trying to talk herself out of a bad situation. 

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In Feng Feng's blog from Wuhan, following the lifting of restrictions of travel out of Wuhan, writes:




In the highlighted text, does it mean that she is not willing to believe that this is a fact. (in other words, she thinks that it is a false rumor) Or does it mean she is not willing to to believe this fact (It's a true fact, but she is going to disbelieve it.) ? My reading would be the later, and I would say that if she meant the former she would have written: 。。。不相信这是一个事实。 


Is this correct or not?

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I confess that I am totally defeated by this paragraph from Fang Fang's blog:



These last few days, the investigating voices are very quiet. I have myself almost neglected this matter.


Deep investigations by reporters seem to have become very scarce and on the verge of disapearing.


Yesterday evening, I saw an article titled “41 Lost Reports on the Epidemic.”


The last sentence read, “To pry open, hidden deeply in the brambles,


to accept society’s secret place of suffering, the news media uses its limited power to tear open the truth, to charge into the light.


A few reports however briefly disappeared, but on history’s original papers (manuscripts) certainly to be classified their place.”


I perhaps have come to realize, trying to speculate on it:


In the matter of suddenly everyone attacking me, by deleting my posts, to be able or not to keep in step with.


Please help me! I would be very grateful.

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You're not far off but perhaps are being defeated by the subtleties and so maybe not seeing the wood for the trees.

To give an overall precis, she's starting by noticing an absence of critical voices and reports, then the article she mentions is presumably about reportage that has been censored and this leads to a moment of clarity/realisation for the author and she then pursues the implications of that - perhaps her becoming the sudden target of attacks from all sides and the deletion of her posts were a coordinated campaign.

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