An unnecessary translation for a photobook


Ten Year Impression
(via Joyo)

At the bookstore the other day looking for the new Han Han novel, I came across this Li Bingbing photobook. Two things struck me about it when I opened up the package after I got home:

1. The printing. It’s actually two separate volumes. The small, squarish volume in the front is a mini-autobiography — snippets of life lessons, really — with a forward by Yu Dan and short comments from other people in the movie biz. Behind it in the image on the left is the photobook itself.

What’s interesting about the print job is that the covers of the two volumes were made from a single piece of card stock. You can’t really tell from the image here, but the cover of the smaller volume is mirrored, yet I had to fold it down slice it apart from the non-mirrored cover of the larger photobook. Impressive, except that somewhere in the process the printers got disoriented and put Li Bingbing on the back cover, and upside-down.

2. The translation.  It’s nothing unusual for a book like this to have titles translated into English. Carefully deployed, foreign words and phrases can serve as another useful tool available to the book’s designer. Sure, maybe there’s a better way to translate the 灿烂 section than “Effulgence,” but the double-f and those ascenders and descenders do look fine on the page.

No, it’s the translation of selected passages that’s bewildering. Most of the text isn’t translated, but particular paragraphs have been rendered into English (by Cheng Zhaojun, who previously translated Can You Teach a Goat to Dance? into Chinese for the same publisher) and used as another design element.  Are the publishers really expecting this book to sell many copies to non-Chinese-reading audiences, or even to audiences outside mainland China? And if they are, wouldn’t they have been better off finding someone to do a competent job?


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