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  The surprise announcement last week that Chinese novelist Mo Yan had won this year's Nobel Prize in literature has focused unprecedented global attention on Chinese literature. 'Tao Te-Ching' and 'Art of War' notwithstanding, books from the world's most populous country have tended to get meager play in the Western press. Luckily, that hasn't kept publishers from commissioning translations of some of China's best-loved works.



  But with dozens of titles to choose from, where should the intrepid reader start?

  为了回答这个问题,“中国实时报”栏目请教了《人民文学》(People's Literature Magazine)英文版杂志《路灯》(Pathlight)的编辑。《路灯》致力于翻译《人民文学》杂志与翻译网站Paper Republic联合出品的中国新小说与新诗歌。以下的五本中国书籍都由《路灯》工作人员力荐,第一本的作者是诺贝尔文学奖得主莫言。

  To answer that question, China Real Time turned to the editors of Pathlight, a literary magazine dedicated to translating new Chinese fiction and poetry jointly produced by the translation website Paper Republic and People's Literature Magazine. Below, Pathlight staff recommend four of their favorite Chinese books in translation, starting with one from the new Nobel winner:

  《天堂蒜薹之歌》(Garlic Ballads),作者:莫言

  'Garlic Ballads,' Mo Yan

  在埋头开始完整地阅读一部莫言的小说前,读者若想对其作品风格有所了解,他的短篇小说集《师傅越来越幽默》(Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh!)也许是一个不错的选择,或者去看看张艺谋根据莫言小说改编拍成的电影《红高粱》(Red Sorghum)。而对于那些热衷于长篇小说的读者而言,《天堂蒜薹之歌》是一个很好的选择。诺贝尔文学奖评委会就曾建议,阅读莫言应当从这部小说开始。

  Readers who want to get a taste of Mo Yan before they commit to reading a whole book may want to pick up 'Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh!, ' a collection of Mo's short stories, or check out Zhang Yimou's film version of the novel 'Red Sorghum.' For those who want to read a full-length novel, the Nobel committee's recommendation of ' The Garlic Ballads' as a first Mo Yan novel is a good place to start.


  'The Garlic Ballads' opens with a quote attributed to Stalin -- though Mo admitted to making it up in the preface to the second edition of the novel -- that takes on new resonance in the light of recent criticisms of Mo for not being more outspoken in his support of imprisoned fellow Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and other politically active writers:


  Novelists are forever trying to distance themselves from politics, but the novel itself closes in on politics. Novelists are so concerned with 'man's fate' that they tend to lose sight of their own fate. Therein lies their tragedy.


  'The Garlic Ballads' has as its backdrop the story -- based on real events in 1987 -- of poor farmers who storm the county government offices in protest over extortionate taxes, tolls, and fees after their garlic crops, planted at the urging of the local government, rot, unsold, in the fields. The novel begins with the arrest and beating of Gao Yang, one of the leaders of the protest, in front of his blind daughter, then cuts to the doomed lovers Gao Ma and Fang Jinju as they attempt to resist Jinju's betrothal to an older man in an illegal arranged marriage.


  Like many of Mo's longer novels, 'The Garlic Ballads' combines gritty realism with surreal imagery, depicts the venal cruelty of official power, and presents personal tragedy in the context of the long, slow-motion tragedy of history.

  ──布伦丹·奥卡尼(Brendan O'Kane),翻译网站Paper Republic联合创始人及《路灯》杂志特约编辑

  -- Brendan O'Kane, Paper Republic co-founder and Pathlight contributing editor.

  《丁庄梦》(Dream of Ding Village),作者:阎连科

  'Dream of Ding Village,' Yan Lianke


  Although a work of fiction, ' Dream of Ding Village' is based on the very real 'blood boom,' a phenomenon of the last 20 years that has led to the spread of HIV among Chinese villagers because of the selling of contaminated blood. Yan Lianke zooms in on individual stories such as the ex-mayor of Ding Village, cajoled into selling blood by blood merchant Ding Hui, even as his energy for his job toiling the fields wanes by the moment.


  Though Yan writes emotions as if they're one shade and paints death and suffering with large brush-strokes, 'Dream of Ding Village' is an extremely readable tale with observations in Yan's famous satirical style. He's positively effusive on the absurdities of modern rural China and the novel is resplendent in details such as peasants, who have probably never set foot outside of Ding Village, being buried in coffins carved with scenes 'depicting famous landmarks: Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Shanghai Oriental Pearl television tower, Guangzhou's high-rise hotels, and various bustling commercial districts, department stores, suspension bridges, fountains, parks and public squares.'

  当艾滋病潮席卷阎连科的出生地河南省、并广泛地影响了生活在这片土地上的父老乡亲时,他的这部致敬之作就更令人动容。这个冷峻残酷的故事由辛迪?卡特(Cindy Carter)翻译,她的笔触流畅、文风老练,切中主旨要害且常常直指人心,字里行间有时还透着诗意。(辛迪?卡特是Paper Republic联合创始人之一。)

  Yan's homage is the more touching as the HIV/AIDS crisis has affected mostly those from his birth province of Henan. The brutal story is smoothly translated by Cindy Carter, whose rendering is practiced, always to the point, and poetic at times. (Full disclosure: Ms. Carter is a co-founder of Paper Republic.


  -- Alice Xin Liu, Pathlight managing editor

  《马桥词典》(A Dictionary of Maqiao),作者:韩少功

  'A Dictionary of Maqiao,' Han Shaogong


  A welcome relief from the overripe camp of much contemporary Chinese literature, ' A Dictionary of Maqiao' is a tightly written, gnomic work that packs epic historical sweep into a series of dense vignettes. Disguised as a 'dictionary' of the dialect of Maqiao, a small village in Hunan, the novel defines 115 local terms such as 'Curse-Grinding,' 'He-Ground (and She-Field),' 'Nailed Backs' and 'Streetsickness,' quickly expanding from a mere compendium of definitions into a patchwork tale of bizarre power. Though the story and its setting are familiar from other Chinese fiction -- an 'educated youth' is sent down to a village during the Cultural Revolution -- the author's narrative choices make that whole world feel new.


  That's the appeal of the book in a nutshell. Plenty of Chinese novels claim to be heir to the magical-realist tradition, but 'A Dictionary of Maqiao' does it right: Presenting the known world as a foreign land, promising to guide the reader through it and teach him its ways, but only deepening the mystery with each patient, detailed definition.

  ──艾瑞克·阿布汉森(Eric Abrahamsen),Paper Republic联合创始人及《路灯》杂志编辑主任

  --Eric Abrahamsen, Paper Republic co-founder and Pathlight editorial director

  《活着》(To Live),作者:余华

  'To Live,' Yu Hua


  Even if you've seen Zhang Yimou's film adaptation of Yu Hua's 'To Live,' that is no excuse to pass up this fantastic 1993 novel. Both the film and the novel are authentically Yu Hua, owing to the writer's intimate involvement in the screenplay, but the novel is significantly darker: In the up-and-down life of the protagonist, a wealthy-scion-turned-peasant named Fugui, the scales lean increasingly toward the downs.


  Despite its tragic strains, 'To Live' manages to redeem itself from the 'rural misery' stereotype that plagues many modern Chinese epics. As we follow the shifting fortunes of Fugui and his family through the capricious evolution of 20century Chinese politics, from the Republican to the Communist period, the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution, what emerges is a meditation on the nature of suffering itself, and the considerable resources the human spirit employs to lessen its sting.


  The result is not a simple accumulation of misery, but rather a clear-eyed attempt to come to grips with the fact of misery, fortified by the sublime assertion that this unflinching attempt is in itself worthwhile. In this sense, the satisfaction of reading 'To Live' is comparable to that of reading existential philosophy--just watch out for the cathartic punches. They could knock you flat, as they did to me when I burst into tears while reading this book on a road trip, leaving my travelling companions perplexed. None of them knew the name Yu Hua. All I could do was point to the book in my hands, and say, 'It's China, man.'

  ──约书亚·戴尔(Joshua Dyer),《路灯》杂志特约编辑

  -- Joshua Dyer, Pathlight contributing editor


  'Endure,' Bei Dao


  Clean-voiced lutes and lantern-lit parties on the water have not been the concern of Chinese poets for over a century, and yet they still seem to invade the imagination whenever the term 'Chinese poetry' is introduced in English-speaking contexts. This is unfair and a great shame. Just as classical Chinese poetry, its subject matter and aesthetic precepts, invigorated English-language poetry in the mid-1900s, the poetry of contemporary China has the power to uncover new paths of focus for poets today. Former exile poet Bei Dao is by far the best-known of Chinese poets since 1978, and the quality of his work is recognized by poets both within China and without. He has spoken as the oracle of the conflicted zeitgeist of a modernizing China, while his poetics have stepped past the fashions of his time into new territory.

  Endure是一本收录了北岛作品的最新英译本诗集,由诗歌翻译家克莱顿?埃什尔曼(Clayton Eshleman)与香港城市大学(City University in Hong Kong)助理教授、译者卢卡斯·克莱因(Lucas Klein)合力译成。收录其中的诗歌均是精选之作,代表了1970年代至今这段时期北岛最好、最重要的诗作。《Endure》汲取了之前英译本的一些灵感,但在语句清晰度与诗学思想重建方面远远超过了他们的前辈。这本诗集甚至还在附录中收集了克莱因与埃什尔曼在翻译过程中交换意见、共同探讨的电子邮件。Endure不单单是一本重要的书,更是一本好书。

  'Endure,' the newest collection of Bei Dao's poetry in English, is a collaborative effort between the poet-translator Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein, translator and assistant professor at City University in Hong Kong. The poems the present have been carefully selected to represent Bei Dao's best and most significant work from the 1970s to the present. The English editions take some inspiration from earlier translations, but far outpace their ancestors for clarity and full re-creation of poetic ideas. The volume even includes an appendix that depicts the process of interpretation through an email exchange between Klein and Eshleman. This isn't just an important book; it's a good one.


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