Archive for the ‘Readings’ Category

Ever vigilant against historical revisionism

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

An anonymous letter that appeared in this week’s Shanghai Review of Books (a supplement to the Sunday Oriental Morning Post) starts off with a standard “long-time reader” intro before accusing the publication of treason:

“进入”还是“侵略”

《上海书评》创办两年半来一直很有特色,我每期必读,几乎保留了全部。然而,3月20日第131期一篇访谈的用词却让我非常惊愕。在这一期《小白谈租界那些事儿》一文的第一节中有这样一句话:“离日本人全面进入华北还有六年时间。”在这里,作者犯了一个严重的历史常识错误:作者不说“侵略”却轻描淡写地说成“进入”,而且作者不说“全面进入”华北的是“日本军队”,却说是“日本人”,作者是不是想说当时是日本平民到中国华北来全面经商或旅游来了呢?这可不是简单的常识性错误。众所周知,日本右翼政客修改教科书,就是把“侵略”二字修改成“进入”。

普通老百姓

“Enter” or “Invade”?

For the two-and-a-half years since its launch, the Shanghai Review of Books has been consistently remarkable. Each issue is a must-read for me, and I’ve kept practically every one. However, the language in an interview that appeared in issue #131 on March 20 left me flabbergasted. The first section of the article “Xiao Bai Talks About Concessions” contains the following line: “Still six months away from the total entry of the Japanese into Northern China.” Here, the author commits a grave error of basic history: the author does not write “invasion” but uses “entry” to gloss over it. And instead of writing about the “total entry” of the “Japanese army” into Northern China,  the author writes of “the Japanese.” Does the author mean to imply that ordinary Japanese at that time were coming to Northern China to engage in full-scale trade or tourism? This is no simple factual mistake. Everyone knows that right-wing politicians in Japan revised textbooks for the express purpose of turning the word “invade” into “enter.”

— An ordinary person

Concession 《租界》 by Xiao Bai (小白) is set in Shanghai in 1931 and  first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2010 novel supplement to Harvest magazine and has just been published in standalone form by People’s Literature Publishing House.

Ming submarines blockade Japan

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Reading through my Douban groups this morning, I came across a twist on the typical online time-travel romance serial:

大明五日游。现在一日,明朝一年。主角到了明朝后,才发现:时间不对——1935?!而且,北方还是清朝的天下……
北清是君主集权,南明是君主立宪。北清首都离边界有1000公里,南明首都离边界只有1000米。但是,南明有主角。
20世纪明朝人穿什么?挣多少钱?20世纪的东厂和锦衣卫是什么样子的?20世纪的大明皇室和内阁,谁听谁的?明、清之间的坦克战怎么打?大明潜艇如何封锁日本列岛?

Ming Empire 1937

A five-day tour of the Great Ming Empire. One day in the present, one year in the Ming. But when our hero reaches the Ming, he discovers that the time is all wrong: 1935?! And to the North is the domain of the Qing….

The Northern Qing, a centralized monarchy, set its capital a thousand miles from the border. The capital of the Southern Ming, a constitutional monarchy, lies just one thousand meters from the frontier. But the Ming possesses our hero.

What did the people of the 20th Century Ming Dynasty wear? How much money did they make? What were the 20th Century Eastern Depot and Silk Brocade Guard like? Who was in charge, the imperial family or the cabinet? How were tank battles fought between the Ming and Qing? How did Ming submarines seal off the islands of Japan?

This synopsis suggests something similar to the early 20th Century futurist political fantasies of Liang Qichao and others: imaginative and even visionary at times, yet static and not all that fun to read.

Secrets of effective cartooning

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

In a comment to a microblog post by cartoonist B. Kuang (atop the image at right, he notes, “Thirty years of thought and a morning of drawing. I need a title. Thanks”), another microblogger asks:

请问楼主:一个15岁的孩子以前没有专门学过任何绘画,想今后能画漫画的话,都应该学绘画方面的那些东西?先学啥后学啥?望能赐教,谢谢
Let me ask the OP: What aspects of drawing should a fifteen-year-old girl who has never studied drawing before but wants to be able to draw comics in the future study? What first? And what next? I await your instruction. Thanks.

Kuang replies:

第一,基础素描少不了,避免眼高手低,为什么国内有很多漫画的画面写满了文字注解,就是绘画的表达能力不够所至,第二个要博览群书,增加生活阅历,提高思想意识,没有深度的生活积累,作品只能是肤浅的。

First, you’ve got to have a grounding in sketching so your skills will match your ambition. So many cartoons in this country covered in textual notes because the expressiveness of the drawing is insufficient. Second, read widely, increase your life experience and heighten your consciousness, for without a deep experience of life, your work will only be superficial.

and continues:

还有就是开微博,这里是知识的海洋,上来接受百家“教育”和熏陶,公民意识加强了,作品就有生命力了。君不见,很多真实的历史是我们的教科书里没有的。我在这里受益菲浅,感恩中……

And then start a microblog. This is an ocean of knowledge, so go on and receive “education” and edification from all corners, and strengthen your citizenship, and then your work will have life. Don’t you realize that many truths of history are not contained in our textbooks? I have gained much here, and I am grateful…

Kuang’s work is immediately recognizable when it is published in the print media or reposted online. His drawings are detailed, but they also contain bold, easily understood elements which, per his instructions, don’t require much captioning at all.

Translation vs. copyright

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

There’s been an interesting series of conversations on Sina’s microblog service this week about works of classic literature translated in the 1980s — before China signed on to international copyright conventions.

Some examples:

Janson Yao writes:

今天看到台湾的黄罗谈短篇侦探小说译介之事的文章,感觉台湾和大陆方面相差无多。早期不重视版权,作品随便译;到了九十年代,受版权之制约,译介变少了。黄罗注意到,近些年又出版了一些短篇侦探小说集。似乎多数是一个人作品的anthology,而收入多人作品的选集,版权要一篇篇购买,成本大,很费时。

Today I read an article by Huang Luo about the translation of short detective fiction in Taiwan, and it looks like the situation in Taiwan and the mainland is pretty much the same. Early on, copyright wasn’t observed, and works were translated at will. By the nineties, under copyright restrictions, translations declined. Huang noticed that there have been some mystery anthologies published in recent years, but it seems like most of them are anthologies from an individual author. In collections of works by multiple authors, rights must be obtained separately for each piece. The cost is high, and it takes time.

Wu Yan comments:

我也看到翻译《桃园二村》的译者说,他带着最初的版本找斯金纳签字译本的时候,由于没版权只好盖住,不让原作者看到书是什么。

I read that the translator of Walden Two said that when he took the very first edition to get Skinner’s autograph, he had to cover it up because he didn’t have the rights, lest the author see what book it was.

The silent, wealthy screenwriter

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Ning Caishen (宁财神), the writer behind the hit TV comedy My Own Swordsman (武林外传), posted the following update to his Sina microblog:

在这行久了,认识的人越来越多,即使不合作,也都属于抬头不见低头见那种,看到烂片还真不好意思多说什么,实在憋的难受,就私底下跟朋友发发牢骚~一直幻想,哪天有个远房亲戚忽然给我留了一大堆遗产,我立马退休,每天写影评,每个电影三万字,从头骂到脚,一个细节都不放过,把所有人得罪光了算球!

After a while in the business, you meet more and more people, and even if you’re not working with them, they’re the sort that you see around all the time. Watching a stinker, I’m embarrassed to say anything, but it’s so painful to hold it in that I have to bitch about it to my friends privately ~ and all the time I dream of the day when a distant relative will suddenly leave me a giant inheritance, and I’ll retire immediately and write a movie review every day, 30,000 characters of pure rant that doesn’t let a single detail off the hook, because who cares if I piss everyone off!

Jin He Zai (今何在), who like Ning got his start in net-lit, replied:

你现在知道我为什么不想混编剧行了?编时就要担心层层评审,能过审评的该删的也删差不多了,评过了也不定能上映,上映了一看,这还是当初写的那个本子吗?还得挂个名字一起挨骂。

Now do you see why I don’t want to get into the screenwriting biz? Writing a script means you’ve got to worry about all those levels of examination. To pass the censors, pretty much everything gets cut out, and passage doesn’t necessarily mean it will get screened. If you look at what does make it, is that the script you first wrote? And you’ve got your name up there so you get attacked along with it.