Transparent Translator Series: Bruce Humes and his “Shanghai Baby” (上海宝贝)

Banned in China, Shanghai Baby (上海宝贝) captured the interest of publishers in the West, and I was commissioned by Simon & Schuster to translate the novel, which was published in 2001. Perhaps because my version became a best-seller in Hong Kong and Singapore, and the Chinese original was later translated into several languages including French, German, Italian and Japanese, over the years several people have interviewed me about the translation process. What follows below is my favorite among those interviews. This interview originally appeared at a web site run by Johnny Katchoolik, an indie musician whose works can be found here.

However, of late it seems no longer to be online. So I have copied it here (minus just the introduction and my picture, but without any other editing).

Questions by Fang Fang are in bolded italics, followed by my answers (Bruce Humes) in normal typeface.

How long have you been living in China?

I arrived via Taipei in 1978 and have worked in various parts of China since, save five years or so spent intermittently in the States. Have based myself in several cities during that time—Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taipei—but travel very frequently, particularly in Shandong, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong.  

What brought you to China initially?

Intense interest in two rather different areas: A desire to master classical Chinese so that I could read Daoist writings in the original, and curiosity about socialism in action. [Read more…]

Transparent China Translator Series: Interview with Li Jihong, “Kite Runner” Chinese Translator

Transparent Translator Series

Interview with Li Jihong (李继宏): Mainland Chinese translator of The Kite Runner (《追风筝的人》)

“The Kite Runner” /《追风筝的人》:

An Afghan Childhood Re-packaged for the Middle Kingdom

It was an intriguing sentence alluding to censorship in the translator’s post-script that initially piqued my curiosity:

“There are certain places in the original text [of  Kite Runner] which are incompatible with Chinese sensitivities. Measuring his words ever so carefully, the translator has polished the copy while maintaining the original meaning.” (My translation)

原书个别不合国情的地方译者酌情在措词上加以改动意思仍一概如旧 (1)

Now what could there possibly be in a childhood story of friendship, betrayal and a belated but moving coming-of-age, set in Afghanistan – a country hardly figuring on China’s world map – that would ruffle “Chinese sensitivities,” I wondered? [Read more…]