Smoke and Mirrors, Unpicking Some Problems of Chinese to English Literary Translation

2016/2017 School of Chinese Seminar 中文學院學術講座

Smoke and Mirrors, Unpicking Some Problems of Chinese to English Literary Translation

Nicky Harman

Date and Time: June 20 (Tuesday); 3:30-5:00pm
Venue: Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower
Language: English

In this talk, I will focus on unpicking a single paragraph by author Jia Pingwa, from his novel Happy ( 《高興》) which I have just finished translating. By looking at my drafts and the final version, I will discuss some challenges such as sentence structure, dialect and (nick)names, as well as broader issues, including cultural references, implicit and explicit. Finally, I will consider the author’s intentions for this paragraph and discuss with the audience whether I have succeeded in recreating the same effect in English.

Nicky Harman lives in the UK. She is co-Chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors, UK). She taught on the MSc in Translation at Imperial College until 2011 and now translates full-time from Chinese. She focuses on fiction, literary non-fiction, and occasionally poetry, by authors such as Chen Xiwo, Han Dong, Hong Ying, Dorothy Tse, Xinran, Xu Xiaobin, Yan Ge, Yan Geling and Zhang Ling. She has won a Mao Tai Cup People’s Literature Chinese-English translation prize, and first prize in the 2013 China International Translation Contest (Chinese-to-English section). She co-runs the “Read Paper Republic” project, posting and promoting free-to-view short stories translated from Chinese. She organizes translation-focused events, mentors new translators and judges translation competitions. She has contributed to literary magazines such as AsianCha, Chutzpah, and Words Without Borders, and she tweets, with Helen Wang, as China Fiction Book Club @cfbcuk.