Xu Zhiyuan × Happy: Writers are superstars

One Person’s Literary World (Part 2)


Previously, we published the first part of the dialogue manuscript of the fourth issue of “One Man’s World Literature” in the series of “Xu Zhiyuan’s Travels”: “Xu Zhiyuan × Xing Xing: We were “hurt” by literature”, Teacher Xing recalled his own The path of literary translation, and the respected translators and editors behind World Literature. Today, we share the next part of the conversation transcript.






Xu Zhiyuan: What happened to Marquez’s entry into China?

Happy: In fact, in the mid-1980s, there was a Chinese-American scholar, Mr. Li Oufan. He also recommended two foreign writers, one is Milan Kundera from Eastern Europe, and the other is García Márquez from Latin America. Mr. Li is particularly sensitive, and he has grasped these two writers very accurately. For example, Kundera’s literary characteristics and Marquez’s literary characteristics have suddenly attracted the attention of the domestic reading and publishing circles.


That is to say, in the mid-1980s, García Márquez and Milan Kundera entered China almost at the same time, and they have continued to attract readers’ attention for so many years, which is particularly remarkable.

García Márquez adds a little bit of magic to ordinary things, and that kind of narrative is particularly catchy. And there’s actually how much tension there is at the beginning of “One Hundred Years of Solitude”: a man who is about to face execution, remembers that distant afternoon of seeing ice cubes. Many ordinary things, under his description, suddenly have a surreal and magical color, which is the attractive and charming side of García Márquez.

And sometimes readers may not be able to read it immediately, but they can be attracted. Therefore, some foreign scholars say that the ideal way to read Marquez is to read it twice: the first time you feel him, and the second time you think about what each sentence of his sentence means. For example, when he wrote “A Murder Case Publicized Beforehand” (1) , he told you who the murderer was and then flashed back the story, but you couldn’t help but follow him. This is amazing, and this is the charm of modernists.


Xu Zhiyuan: How do you explain the magic of his writing? I find it very incredible.

Happy: I think this is genius. They are all modernists to a certain extent, and modernists are all adventurers in the field of art and literature to put it bluntly. Unwilling to live in that safe field, they are willing to take artistic and literary adventures. He needs to look at everything with a unique and another vision and way, and form their own unique vision. This is amazing, whether it is like Kafka or Marquez.

Marquez is obviously deeply influenced by Kafka, but it is impossible to form his own style just by its influence. Magic realism is to add a little magic color to realism, which is a positioning of many commentators. He himself disagreed. Márquez said: “I am a realist writer, and any so-called magical details in my novels actually have a source of reality.” For example, there is a flying carpet in the novel. He said: “I just saw an aunt drying a blanket when a gust of wind came over and the blanket flew up.” You see, through exaggeration and slight deformation, there is such a magical charm in literature. Everyday, from life.


Márquez is working on “One Hundred Years of Solitude”
Photography/Guillermo Angulo

Xu Zhiyuan: It is absolutely magical to write down the daily life we ​​are experiencing now quietly and patiently.

HAPPY: Yes, and like Marquez, as the masters of modernism, they definitely think that reality is in a way actually higher than art. Sometimes art can present 50% or 60% of the magical side of reality, which is already amazing.

Xu Zhiyuan: How did you feel when you read about Kundera?

Happy: The initial introduction of Kundera was related to our editorial department. The editorial department of “World Literature” actually has two magazines, one is “World Literature”, which mainly publishes works; the other is “Foreign Literature Dynamics”, now renamed “Foreign Literature Dynamics Research”, which is a core journal. It was amazing that we were able to publish articles there. Mr. Liu Mingjiu and Mr. Zhu Hong published articles there. There were no other platforms at that time. In fact, it was Mr. Yang Leyun who originally sent a short message to introduce Kundera and another Czech writer Vazorik (2) , but that was just a dynamic.



Kundera is actually related to a Chinese translation, that is, Mr. Han Shaogong’s Unbearable Lightness in Life (September 1978). Various accidental factors contributed to Kundera’s translation. At that time, there were many difficulties in translating and introducing Kundera: it was necessary to consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Administration of Press and Publication, and experts from the Academy of Social Sciences, because Kundera was still a “reactionary” in the eyes of many experts; Kundera and Czechoslovakia At that time, the relationship was also broken. If Kundera was introduced to the Czechoslovak embassy, ​​there might be protests; the two parts involved in Kundera’s works, one was sex and the other was politics, were relatively sensitive at that time. But Kundera’s sexual description also has its reasons. He feels that sex is a bright light that can illuminate the darkest side of human nature. Of course, this is just what he said, and objectively, it actually has the effect of attracting a large number of readers.

Later, the Writers Publishing House made the book in a particularly intelligent way-internal series, and published a series of books including “The Unbearable Lightness of Life”. It is said that it is an internal series of books, in fact, readers can read it, and the term “internal series of books” can actually arouse the curiosity of readers.


So it seems that everyone was reading Kundera at that time, and both refined and popular enjoyed it. If you don’t read Kundera’s words, you will feel outdated in the 1980s. In addition, the reason why Kundera can attract the attention of so many Chinese readers is also because the subject matter he deals with and everything he writes is actually too familiar to us.


Milan Kundera

To a certain extent, the reason why later Eastern European writers such as Hrabar (3) , Milosz, and Zagayevsky (4) can resonate with many Chinese readers is because they seem to be writing about us In the past, to a certain extent, Chinese readers are the most able to understand Eastern European literature.

But Kundera is out of a subtle consideration, he has refused China’s invitation time and time again, but he will never refuse his book to be published in China. Kundera’s works have been published in China, except for some of the works that he himself denied. Including Herta Miller (5) , in fact, a lot of books have been published in China, but to some extent they are aiming for a prize – the Nobel Prize for Literature, so they don’t want to have too much ties with socialist countries. , including the very good Albanian novelist Kadale, I have translated his “Dream Palace”.


Some writers in Eastern Europe, except for Kundera and Milosz just mentioned, including Simboska, who has been popular among readers in recent years, were actually first introduced by our World Literature.

Milosz combines literature and social responsibility, and is also a typical Eastern European writer. He left and stayed in Paris, and then moved to the United States, and there was a small episode. When he entered the United States, the visa officer almost did not give him a visa. After he won the Nobel Prize, the American President joked when he received him: “It was almost at that time, Because of a mistake by our visa officer, a future Nobel Prize winner in literature was delayed from coming to the United States.” He returned to Poland for the last ten years, to Krakow. Krakow is a very charming city and I stayed there for a long time.


Xu Zhiyuan: His life is also amazing. When he was teaching at Berkeley, he was actually an obscure writer and professor of literary history who wrote poetry himself, and few people knew of his existence.

Happy: Yes, and after Milosz has achieved certain achievements, he has always emphasized that he is a Polish writer and Polish poet; Kundera is different, he is now more willing to portray himself as a French writer. Milosz’s place in Krakow was a modest apartment. In fact, he is fully capable of buying a villa, but he himself prefers to live in an ordinary apartment, where he can get in touch with the people every day, and is more down-to-earth.

Xu Zhiyuan: There is a market square in Krakow. I have been to a very old cafe with traces of Europe at the beginning of the century. I think there is always a time lag between Eastern Europe and Western Europe. Eastern Europe is another kind of enchantment, a kind of enchantment brought about by a time lag.


Krakow Market Square

Happy: Krakow actually has a medieval sense of rhythm. How small is this city, you can walk to any place, you will always slow down involuntarily, as if the pace is a little faster, it will spoil the beauty of this city. Prague and Krakow are like this. Once you stay there, you are always in a strong cultural atmosphere and atmosphere, and you feel very comfortable.

Xu Zhiyuan: You said this, I think of many stories. Mr. Chen Shixiang (6) taught Chinese literature at Berkeley. In fact, he hired Eileen Chang as a visiting scholar. I remember reading Milosz’s poems about getting together and chatting with a few of them. It is also a literati republic. Milosz is especially willing to help those exiled Eastern European writers and poets, and has a feeling of sympathy. Zhang Ailing is in the same time and space as him, which is quite strange to think about.


Happy: Zhang Ailing sometimes has a weird personality. She doesn’t like to socialize herself. Sometimes she bypasses the normal time at work and finds another time.


Xu Zhiyuan: At that time, World Literature was an important position. What was it like to be a young editor there? The chaos of time and space, and the chaos of regions, what do you think of it now?

Happy: The concept of “world literature” was proposed by Goethe in 1827, which includes idealism and romantic visions, but there are also many people in the academic circle who dispute this. Goethe believed that world literature is the common literature of all mankind, in contrast, national literature is not so important for the time being. As I understand it, world literature is the most classic and excellent works of all mankind. What we actually do is to find ways to dig out the best works, and then find ways to present them. So I actually entered a wider, richer world, and it was especially diverse. This atmosphere is actually good training for me.


For example, if I simply do Romanian literature research, my vision may not be so broad, but in the editorial department of “World Literature” we are in communication all day long, and I constantly listen to my colleagues who are engaged in French literature editors talking about France. Literature, those who are engaged in German literature are talking about German literature, which gives me a comparative perspective.

And when I came to “World Literature”, the magazine had a very important orientation – to respect the laws of literature and art. At that time, there were a number of influential writers in the world literary circles, all of which we introduced at the first time. As it turns out, sometimes more other factors need to be considered, such as the ideological response needs. And in the 1980s, we hadn’t participated in the Copyright Convention, so I’ve seen all the excellent things, so I can introduce them. Now we have to deal with copyright first, which is actually very time-consuming and labor-intensive.

At that time, it was no problem to subscribe to 400,000 or 500,000 in a single issue. Every day, letters from readers were packed in sacks. After Nake (8) Three Poets’ Tablets, thousands of letters from readers came to the editorial department like snowflakes every day, causing huge repercussions.


Xu Zhiyuan: From your personal experience, is there an obvious change in the taste of the times?

Happy: still there. For example, the 1980s may be a little more unfettered, while the 1990s are relatively more rigorous and beneficial, and more precise. Mr. Li Wenjun mentioned a “radical conservatism”. Our position is always the best writer in the world’s literary world, but we have no specific requirements for the country, because literature itself must reflect a sense of freedom and democracy. I myself am skeptical of the concepts of “big country literature” and “small country literature”. As long as it is an excellent writer’s work, it is within the scope of our consideration.


For example, Albania, such a small country, has appeared in Kadale, which is absolutely world-class. The positioning of “World Literature” has also been fine-tuned. For a while, our focus was mainly on European and American countries. Since the 1990s, we have all consciously wanted to break the European and American centrism, and we must also adhere to democracy and equality in the field of literature. Including the Hrabar I mentioned just now, “Too Loud Loneliness” is really beautiful, and it is also a relatively large album that I edited as an editor.

Then there is Kerima, I went to Prague and paid a special visit to him. He was a Jewish writer and had experience in concentration camps. From my observation, concentration camps can make people go in two directions: one is to fill people with resentment and become very stubborn; or to open people’s hearts and make people more and more broad-minded.


Kerima belongs to the kind of person whose heart is completely opened. After I went to his house, his wife Helen came to serve biscuits and prepare tea, and he immediately put his wife away and said, “You go and do your thing now. , Mr. Gao and I are going to talk as two men.” This time, the distance between the two can be shortened. I was chatting with him just like we are now, and Friendship Publishing Company has published five volumes of him. , I participated in the editor-in-chief.


“Krimma Short Stories Volume (Top and Bottom)” “Krimma Novella Volume (Top and Bottom)” “Krimma Novel Volume” / Ivan Kerema / China Friendship Publishing House / 2004-1

He felt very happy to be able to target Chinese readers, and this five-volume book was placed in a prominent place on his bookshelf. I said to him, “Mr. Kerima, I find your women so graceful and moving, Kundera’s women are different.” Kundera’s women are often full of rebellion and infidelity, and are fickle .

Xu Zhiyuan: I like Sabina very much.


Kundera served as a film consultant for the film “Prague Love” adapted from “The Unbearable Lightness of Life”.

Happy: Yes, she needs to betray and move every day. Because she is anti-kitsch (9) , she wants to break all the old, inherent patterns, and she will never cater to anyone or anything.

I said, “Kundera’s women are not like you,” and Mr. Kerima said, “Because I can really appreciate them, I love women,” and he whispered, “This is also My greatest happiness.” He said that he had been in close contact with several excellent women in his life, which was a kind of happiness for Klima. His wife is also very elegant. Then he said something more fun, he said there is nothing to chat with men, at most a beer to watch the World Cup. But with the lady, the elegant lady, the classy lady, you can talk about everything. I spent an entire afternoon at his house with particularly fond memories.

The old gentleman is too cute, but he is very old, otherwise he really wants to come to China. His wife is a famous translator, and he is also a classmate with Mr. Xing Can, who just passed away in September last year, so Mr. Xing Can introduced me Got to know him, corresponded with him, solicited his copyright, then translated his work.


Xu Zhiyuan: I remember that Philip Roth (10) went to see Crema at that time and did an interview with him, right?

Happy: Philip Roth has been to Eastern Europe countless times. Eastern Europe is the East in the eyes of many Western Europeans. In that special high-pressure environment, Philip Roth went to Eastern Europe again and again to interview Kundera, Kerima, and many others. Eastern European writer. He called Eastern Europe another Europe. Literature allows many moving stories to happen.

Xu Zhiyuan: I remember that in his book, he talked about Klima, he said: “With you, you can’t say anything, but every word you say is extremely important; with us, back to the United States , we can say anything, but nothing matters.”


Ivan Klima (right) and Philip Roth

Happy: Yes, this expression is particularly accurate. Like Kerima, when they couldn’t publish things in their own country, they still had other channels. A lot of works flowed from underground channels to Europe, where they were published, they actually used literature as a powerful weapon.

Xu Zhiyuan: After the 1990s, a kind of world literature or global literature emerged, that is, literature has also become a part of globalization.


Joy: I don’t think the globalization of literature is equal to world literature, because globalization’s requirements for unity, norms, and speed are harmful to literature. Today, an important trend in world literature is cross-border, hybridization and fusion. For example, Kundera’s novels incorporate a lot of philosophical meditation. The most typical is Tokarchuk, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2018. Everyone feels very new to her. She was born in 1962 and is very young. She likes to wear fancy clothes. Her creation is a typical hybrid, cross-border, and then merged, like an encyclopedia, involving countless fields, and there is an inner connection between the fragments. In fact, it may be better to read her short stories alone. Many of her long stories are actually composed of short stories that are both independent and interrelated. She represents a new trend.


Xu Zhiyuan: Among the writers who have won the Nobel Prize in the past 20 years, two really had an impact on me, one was Naipaul, and the second was probably Pamuk (11) . Including them, the writers we just mentioned are superstars in the true sense, but it seems that it is difficult for literature to create superstars now?

Happy: Yes. I especially want to emphasize that the Nobel Prize is definitely the most influential award in world literature at present, but don’t use it as the only criterion for judging, because there are too many excellent writers who have not won the Nobel Prize, but this It doesn’t stop us from admiring them and loving them.

Tolstoy did not win a Nobel Prize, nor did Proust. Proust was also introduced to our “World Literature” at the beginning. “Reminiscence of the Years Like Water” had several translations at that time, such as “Searching for the Past Time”.


Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, when the original draft came, Mr. Wu Ningkun’s translation came as “The Great Gatsby”, which is actually inaccurate. If you are familiar with this novel, understand this The protagonist, it is inappropriate to describe him as great. The seniors pondered over and over again, and finally Mr. Li Wenjun settled on “The Great Gatsby”.


There is also Seifert’s memoir, when it first came, the title The world is so beautiful, the translator is more honest – translated as the world is so beautiful. Accurate but without flavor, not literary. It is also the seniors who have been thinking over and over again. Mr. Gao Mang also mentioned that he simply called it “So many beautiful mountains and rivers”, which is too Chinese, and the translation still needs a kind of exotic color. It was finally determined to be “the beauty of the world”. Suddenly it was different.


Xu Zhiyuan: How did this translation tradition come to be? Considering that the history of translation as a profession in China is not long, it only took about a century, starting with Lin Shu and others, it was ancient at that time, and there must have been many changes in between.


Gao Xing: When it comes to literary translation, it can actually be divided into two parts: foreignization and domestication. When Mr. Lu Xun and the others were working on “Translation”, Mr. Lu Xun advocated “alienation”, which means there must be a sense of strangeness. He needed a foreign and unfamiliar thing to impact the ancient Chinese and inject vitality into the ancient Chinese; But there is also a kind of “naturalization”, which makes it very smooth, just like authentic Chinese. There are two ways. But I personally feel that if the two methods are sometimes organically combined, the effect may be better.

Xu Zhiyuan: Who do you think is the best combination?

Happy: For example, Mr. Li Wenjun, I think the combination is very good. Mr. Li Wenjun’s translation rhythm is 500 words a day. He has translated several Faulkners in his life. At this pace, our current translators, some It is impossible for me to say that I can translate 20,000 words a day.

Translation also requires a balance, both a solid mother tongue foundation and foreign language accumulation. The first seniors may be better in Mandarin, but relatively weak in foreign languages. Many translators now have a much more solid foreign language than their predecessors, but their basic Chinese skills may not be in place. Mr. Luo Xinzhang, who just passed away from the Institute of Foreign Literature, has put a lot of effort into translation and has a good balance.


Xu Zhiyuan: I think we read Wang Xiaobo when we were in school. He highly recommended Mr. Wang Zuoliang’s translation, saying that his rhythm was very good.


Happily: With my limited translation practice, as a translator, I may have to correct my position, and I need to deal with the relationship between the translator and the author. For me, the style of the original work is the highest authority, and I must understand and ponder the original work. There is such a problem in our current translation forum, that is, a translator who translates dozens of authors feels like a single person. There are still translators who want to show off their skills and show off their rich vocabulary, but some authors just use limited vocabulary. Kundera is, he also emphasizes the beauty of repetition, there is a progressive and crescendo power. However, when some translators see the same word, in order to show their rich vocabulary, the first one uses beautiful, the second uses beautiful, and the third uses elegant. Maybe the original author of the author is emphasizing “beauty”. This is the author’s intention, and we cannot change it casually. Therefore, it is particularly important to really penetrate the author’s literary world.

Now I only translate a thousand words every day, at most two thousand words, and sometimes it may pass quietly in an afternoon just for a sentence or a word. I translated “Palace of Dreams” at the time, and when Shanghai Translation published that book, they changed the title to “Palace of Dreams”. They had a market consideration, and it felt like another new book. . That book of more than 100,000 words, for half a year, was also torture for me. When I was translating, I was often in a special state, and I was easily emotional. Even if the puppy at home came in, it would destroy my state, so I still feel guilty when I think about it now.


Yan Lianke’s congratulatory message for the 60th anniversary of “World Literature”

Xu Zhiyuan: What is it like to enter the state? My friend Mr. Zhang Beihai (12) shared a very vivid moment with me. He said that he was very surprised when he went out to buy coffee when he finished writing “The Story of Peiping”. The cafes were all black and white. , seems to have moved from Peiping to the United States in an instant.

Joy: It will indeed be very magical. When I was translating Kadalee, especially “Dream Palace” is a very gloomy allegory novel. Entering that world for too long will still make people unbearable.

Xu Zhiyuan: Will this transform you?

Happy: To a certain extent, doing translation is also a kind of writing. You can’t get around every word and every sentence. It is also a state of the most in-depth reading. There is definitely some transformation and influence. In the Janus project funded by Unidirectional Space, there is a translator, Mr. Yu Zemin, who I admire. He has introduced a large number of excellent Hungarian writers to China over the years. I think he is in that state every day. He said that in fact, when you translate a book, you will gradually look a little like that book, which is a kind of subtle influence.


I have also translated a lot of Romanian poetry, Stenescu (13) , Sorescu (14) , Brandiana (15) , etc. I traveled in different literary worlds, Stenescu Library is one state, Solescu is another state, and Blandiana is another. Like writing, translating can sometimes lead to a different life.


Xu Zhiyuan: I think translation is seriously underestimated in this era compared to writers.

Happily: Literary translation has not received the attention it deserves in our country. Sometimes I think a classic work is definitely better than countless so-called academic papers, but literary translation is not worth it in terms of remuneration standards and academic evaluation system. With due respect, literary translation in many schools is not considered an academic achievement. This is why we are very excited when we find some excellent translators now. Translation can neither be counted as a result, nor can it make money, so the Janus project of Unidirectional Space has given translators another kind of recognition, which moved me in particular.

Xu Zhiyuan: I especially want to share a passage of “Too Loud Loneliness”. People like Mr. Yang are still at their desks translating at the age of 80 and 90, which is really remarkable.

Thirty-five years later, I am in the waste paper pile, this is my love story. Thirty-five years ago I used a press to process waste paper and books, and for thirty-five years my body was covered in words like an encyclopedic dictionary – the kind of dictionary I’ve used the press to process during this period is no doubt Already weighing three tons, I have become a jar full of living water and stagnant water. If I turn to one side, many good ideas will flow out. My knowledge is acquired by accident. In fact, it is difficult for me to distinguish which ones are. Thoughts belong to me, from my own brain, and from books, so for thirty-five years I have been in harmony with myself and the world around me, because when I read, I actually don’t read, but put beautiful words in my mouth inside, sucking like candy, sipping like a spirit, until the word dissolves in my body like alcohol, not only permeating my brain and heart, but rushing through my veins , hit the end of each of my blood vessels… I bought a calculator that can add, subtract, multiply and divide, and can also prescribe. A gadget not much bigger than a small wallet.

I dared to use a screwdriver to pry open its back cover, and I was amazed to find that except for a small square the size of a postage stamp and the thickness of ten book pages, there was only air, and it was full of mathematical changes. When my eyes fall on a valuable book, when I read the printed words line by line, the book leaves nothing but immaterial thoughts. These thoughts flap their wings and fly through the air, glide through the air, live on the air, and return to the air, because in the end everything is air, just as the communion in the church is both the blood of Christ and not.

/ “Too Loud Loneliness”

/【Czech Republic】Hrabal

Translated by Yang Leyun

/ Originally published in “World Literature”, No. 2, 1993

Xu Zhiyuan: How do young people feel when they enter the editorial office of World Literature? For example, what are their literary interests?

Happy: I think they are more open and more open to new things. Sometimes it’s especially important to bring out the new. They have a richer way of reaching the world and their ability to use the Internet to search far beyond ours. Furthermore, our vision was very limited when we were children, and Romania was already quite a distant country for me. At that time, we liked to say “go to the world”, which reflected our special mentality. We were really isolated from the outside world for too long. The editor of “World Literature” requires writing ability, translation ability, and research ability. Only on this basis can you become an excellent editor.

Xu Zhiyuan: Just as you mentioned Mr. Gao Mang, don’t come to World Literature if you want to “become fame and fortune”.


Gao Mang, former editor-in-chief of World Literature

Happy: Mr. Gao Mang became very famous later. He made many friends. Sometimes movie actors and stars came to “World Literature” to ask for Mr. Gao Mang by name. He held a series of lectures and invited people from all walks of life to come and communicate. Other researchers from the Institute of Foreign Languages, including colleagues from the Academy of Social Sciences, came to hear the news, and the conference room was full. And at that time, even if I invited guests to come without pay, I just sent a few copies of “World Literature” or a collection of works we compiled. Everyone was very pure.

Xu Zhiyuan: World Literature is really an amazing magazine.

Xing Xing: Finally, I want to share a piece of text that was published in the latest issue of our World Literature. The name of the work is “Best Friend”, from the Russian writer Yevgeny Vodolazkin.

Everything will pass – it’s their common thought. The bombing of the night, the march of troops, the conflict of the country, will all pass. The country will die out, only the heaven and the earth will last forever. The woods, the wind…the bomber whizzes by, its imprint erased by the sponge-like cloud, like no plane ever flew. isn’t it? Animals and insects, everything that is not involved in military operations will stay. Everything is involved in the war – it’s just an illusion. Ants, if studied carefully, ants are building their nests and birds are flying south. The driver of the car pinched his nose with his thick fingers and blew his nose towards the road.










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