from A Contrarian’s Tales
One of the main overarching translation decisions for this book was how to emulate the mixed-use of linguistic styles, as in the blending of Literary (or Classical) Chinese—the language traditionally used in Leishu—modern, vernacular Chinese, and spoken Chinese. Naturally, the differences between these language styles do not correspond to the differences between, let’s say, Early Modern English and Modern English, so I changed my approach to consider what is the effect each language has on the story and emulate that instead. Literary Chinese expression is highly concise and compact, able to evoke vivid imagery or convey abundant information in four characters or even fewer, whereas Modern Chinese expression relies on a clearer, more formulaic grammar that results in longer, more-familiar prose. These are two distinct styles of expression that exist in English too: an equivalent difference might be that between a thesaurus entry on a particular plant and a descriptive passage of the countryside by a novelist. This is only one approach to this challenge and far from covers all the challenges faced in translating this book, but I hope it provides an insight into a style of writing that is utterly distinct from the western traditions.
Yang Dian was born in Chongqing in 1972 and has been based in Beijing since 1985. He is a writer, artist, and Guqin expert. Known for his unique literary experiments that blend different genres and styles, he has published more than a dozen Chinese-language books including a novel, short story collections, a microfiction collection, poetry, and essays. His most recent work has been dedicated to honouring and reviving the neglected traditions of Chinese writing such as opera scripts, Guqin manuals, annotations, commentaries, and the encyclopaedic leishu through recontextualising the storytelling inherent within them for a modern reader. A Contrarian’s Tales is his first book to be translated into any language; no publisher has as of yet been found.
Jack Hargreaves is a writer and Chinese-English translator who having studied and worked in Southampton, Nanjing, Chengdu, Xiamen, and Minneapolis is now based in London. Specialising in literary and academic texts, Jack has translated more than one million Chinese characters, including Buddhism-related works, historical and philosophical works, creative non-fiction by Ye Duoduo and Yuan Ling, and a variety of short fiction. Forthcoming translations include Li Juan’s Winter Pasture, Yang Dian’s flash fiction collection A Contrarian’s Tales, and A History of Chinese Philosophical Thought by Zhang Xianghao.