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Reading Chen Qiufan's Waste Tide (荒潮, 陈楸帆): Chapter 1


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So what I've been doing is reading ahead quite a bit and making notes, so that I've got a 'bank' of material and can maintain regular updates even if I can't read for a period. Trouble with this is that I'm writing these posts a couple of weeks after the reading, and my memory might not be as fresh as I'd hope. I should maybe write up the posts as I go and post them when needed. Anyway. 




Relatively long chapter at 10,000 characters or so. Can be divided into: 


Part 1, in the museum, flashback to last night's banquet, up until they leave for lunch. 

Part 2, lunch, with some discussion about the island. 

Part 3, a visit to the e-waste village of 下陇, where things actually happen.


So, forget the prologue for a while - there are references to it later on, but as far as I can see it's very much background.


Our nautical theme continues though - a boat. We meet 斯科特·布兰道 , Scott Brandle, working for an American firm 惠睿 which wants to work on Silicon Isle on a visit to a museum. He's accompanied by his translator assistant 陈开宗, Chen Kaizong,  born locally but raised int the US and a Boston Uni history graduate, and Lin Yiyu, aka Director Lin 林逸裕 林主任, who works for the investment bureau or something like that. We get a bit of flashback to a drunken banquet the night before, and learn the Scott has been in the military.


Note the application of guanxi when Scott has Chen mention the name of 郭启道, provincial environmental chief, to get what he wants. This guy gets only passing mention, but... have we seen a similar name recently? 


There's some mention of the technology - 增强现实 augmented reality, Scott use of which is hampered by the fact Silicon Isle is a low-data-speed zone (低速区). There's also mention of an instant testing chip 即时检验芯片 he wishes he could use to check his food. Later in the chapter we see 义体 - artificial limbs, organs, etc (one of which we witness crawling across the floor later), as well as less-reliable 山寨版增强现实 for those who can't afford the real thing. 


We also get our first glimpse of the social structure of the island - there are three clans. The Luo are the most powerful, with big interests in restaurants and entertainment, and lots of political influence. They also get first dibs on incoming waste for recycling. The other two weaker clans are the Lin - as in Director Lin - and the Chen - as in Chen Kaizong, although he left as a child and is now a bit of a 'fake foreigner'. We also see mention of the 本地人 / 外地人 distinction - the outsiders do the dirty work and are known as 垃圾人. 


 There's some discussion of the effect the trade in waste has on the island from Director Lin, both on society and the environment: "我们靠垃圾养家糊口,发家致富,赚得越多,环境越糟糕,就像拽着一根套着自己脖子的麻绳,拽得越紧,越透不过气来,但是你一松手,下面就是陷阱。水太深了"


There's an incident in 下陇, when a cybernetic guard dog gets a bit over-excited. Thankfully Lin is able to turn it off, but Scott's reactions betray him as not just an ordinary businessman, and I was left wondering if Lin let the incident happen - Chen has already decided that Lin has 隐瞒了什么实情. 


Scott also asks Lin to trace the provenance of some mysterious bit of kit found in a workshop. This didn't quite make sense to me, as why would he care, and why would Lin just agree. I haven't reached an explanation for this yet. 


The three are then witness to an industrial accident, which provides a happy little ending for this chapter. 


Few items which might save you some look-ups. 

低狺 - a low snarl

哑巴吃黄连,有苦说不出 - 黄连 is used in Chinese medicine and known for being bitter, and can mean 'bitter life'. And if you're mute, you can't complain about it. 

马太效应  - Matthew effect of accumulated advantage. 

王水 - Aqua regia is a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, optimally in a molar ratio of 1:3

弧光 - arc light

巴甫洛夫 - Pavlov

下山虎 - I only know this from a note to the translation, but roughly it's a courtyard house built on a slope, taking on the appearance of a descending tiger

拿撒勒的耶稣 - Jesus of Nazerth

蹩脚 shoddy, lame. 


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On 3/27/2020 at 9:59 AM, roddy said:

Note the application of guanxi when Scott has Chen mention the name of 郭启道, provincial environmental chief, to get what he wants. This guy gets only passing mention, but... have we seen a similar name recently? 

Thats a great spot, I completely missed the similarity of the name with 郭启德 who I even listed in my vocab for the prologue. Interesting...


I totally missed 王水, think I must have just skipped over it while trying to figure out what 酸雾 acid fog was.


I'm hoping I understood the following bolded term correctly as another type of advanced wearable tech, something along the lines of an 'induction membrane':



If so, seems like the author is going for a direct contrast with a description of Scott only a few paragraphs later:



Perhaps this is the author trying to subliminally reveal Scott's empathy with the '垃圾人'? Thought it was interesting to pick out anyway, even if I'm not sure what the purpose is yet...


My vocab:


二噁英 1,4-Dioxin and 呋喃 Furan (suprised to see these two, we had to learn lots of these for interpreting speeches on environmental action, the Basel convention etc)
铬 chromium
虚与委蛇 pretend to care/sympathise/be interested
放诸四海皆准 something universally true
抿嘴 purse ones lips
绝缘线 insulated wire
神经末梢 nerve ending
尺蠖 inchworm (caterpillar of the Geometer moth, from wiki: "Their scientific name derives from the Ancient Greek geo γῆ or γαῖα "the earth", and metron μέτρων "measure" in reference to the way their larvae, or "inchworms", appear to "measure the earth" as they move along in a looping fashion." nice description of a crawling limb)
硅胶 silica gel
硅油 silicone oil
耳蜗 cochlea
开膛手杰克 Jack the Ripper (how did I not know this one?)
蚀刻 etch
无计可施 at wits end
等离子切割枪 plasma cutter
花岗岩灌溉渠坝 granite irrigation ditch/embankment

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15 hours ago, Tomsima said:

Thats a great spot, I completely missed...

Oh, you and me both. I'm reading ahead remember, so this was after having it pointed out in Chapter 6 or 7. I figure if I'm reading ahead it makes sense to point out stuff I missed so future readers (or, just you, at the moment) don't miss it.


感应薄膜 - induction membrane seems as good a term as any, not sure what Ken Liu uses. High-tech tattoos responding to the wearer's emotions, as far as I can see. Good spot with 薄膜, I remember the line, but hadn't noticed that echoing. 


I liked 王水. Reminded me of 羊水


铬 - I had to do a translation once involving both 铬 and 镉 and realised at the end I'd been inconsistently mixing them up. Great fun. 


开膛手杰克 Jack the Ripper (how did I not know this one?) - Surprised I didn't note that one. That's brilliant, 开膛手. 


Hoping to get next chapter up today. 

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