Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reviews of Unsavory Elements

I have gotten good feedback on compiling reviews for a book (example: "Reviews of Deng Xiaoping in Review").  So here is another one - today for Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China. Some of these reviews (as well as the comments they triggered) are surely interesting to read.

I also plan to write a review myself, and I can tell you beforehand that I honestly enjoyed reading most of the book. But since translation issues will be beyond the scope of my review, here I'd like to briefly discuss the translation of two Chinese phrases, which I happened to encounter in two of my favorite stories in the book. 

"思想汇报" -- in the book it's translated as "thinking reports,"  but "thought reports" might be more accurate, and read better.

"哪里哪里" -- as a modest response to praises, this is humorously translated as "Where? where?" in the book.  If you have read my posts on translation before, you would know I'm often in favor of literal translation, but here I agree with one of the book reviewers below that "Nah, nah" would be a better rendition. Note also that the question marks don't exist in the original Chinese phrase. As a bilingual reader I enjoyed and appreciate the writer's humor, but for English readers who don't know Chinese the confusion caused by  "Where? where?" might trump the humorous effect.

Now, here is my compilation of reviews as well as interviews with Tom Carter the editor, in reverse chronological order of their publication dates --

(Updated 11/5), Nov. 5, 2013

LA Review of Books, Sept. 25, 2013

The Peking Duck, Sept. 13, 2013

Caixin Online, Aug. 24, 2013

Asian Review of Books, Aug. 17, 2013

Business Insider, Aug. 2, 2013, July 22, 2013

That's,  June 17, 2013

Chengdu Living, June 1, 2013

The Beijing Cream, May 21, 2013

Beijing Bookworm: "A Q&A with Tom Carter," May 21, 2013

Time Out Shanghai, May 10, 2013

The Beijinger, May 9, 2013

Shanghaiist, May 8, 2013


1 comment:

Yong Huang said...

The translation "thought reports" for "思想汇报" is definitely better than "thinking reports". But a translator's note is warranted, unless the context is sufficiently clear. "哪里哪里" should never be "Where? where?". I have no doubt that the translator knows what it means and intentionally renders it "Where? where?", "humorously" as you said. But this humor distorts the meaning so much that it's no longer correct. Was he comparing himself with Pearl Buck in choosing the pun "pass your wind" in translating the Chinese "fang4pi4"? (In spite of widespread critique, Pearl Buch's choice has its merit.)