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Talking Translation (翻译话题)

Stephanie Meyer Red-hot in China: Could it be the Footnotes?

As of early 2010, Meyer’s entire Twilight series—all four translated volumes—now rank among the “Top Ten Fiction Best Sellers” in mainland China. In Taiwan, they took the top four slots on the island’s list of best-selling fiction.

What’s driving the sales: A newly acquired national passion for vampire romance? The image of the photogenic female author from the US?  Integrated marketing of the films + novels that push the right buttons?

I picked up a Chinese copy of Eclipse (月食) here in Shenzhen lately, and I can tell you one thing: the reading “experience” of the Chinese reader is likely to be a bit different than among Twilight’s fervent fěnsī (fans) in the West.

Meyer’s prose seems to average 3.5 lines to a paragraph in the original. Hardly tough going. But many of the footnotes that dot her yuèshí (eclipse) take up a third of a page, and a handful occupy more than half a page. Right there in the text, not at the end of the chapter. In mice type, China style.

And get this—there are a total of 49 footnotes in the entire novel. The lion’s share fall into one of three categories: geography, Greek mythology and what one might call Americana.