Xu Zhiyuan × Xing Xing: We are “hurt” by literature

One Person’s Literary World (Part 1)








Xu Zhiyuan: Teacher Xing, please share your story with World Literature first.

Happy: Before that, I would like to thank Teacher Xu for the invitation. In the monotonous and boring time, as soon as I came to the one-way space, I had a sense of belonging and felt that my life had become normal.

Speaking of this magazine, I have spent most of my life working on World Literature. When I was admitted to university in 1979, I was the youngest in our class, and I arrived in Beijing at the age of 16. My university studies are Romanian and English. According to the wishes of my family, when I go to Beijing Foreign Studies University, of course I have to become a senior translator. They really want me to appear behind the leaders of diplomatic occasions. What an honor it is . In this sense, I must have been “harmed” by literature.


BFSU study room in the 1980s

It may be difficult for young people to imagine now. In the 1980s, meeting a female classmate had to do a little homework beforehand. If you can memorize a few poems, such as Adam Mickiewicz and Pushkin, visualize it. Get taller. I thought of a book that influenced me a lot at that time, “Anthology of Western Love Poems”, which I bought early in the morning by bike for more than two hours, from the western suburbs to the Wangfujing Bookstore. The origin of “World Literature” also happened at that time.


Before that, my childhood was in a relatively drab and gloomy era, with occasional foreign film screenings, and for us, like a festival, watching movies became a collective memory of a generation. You can imagine that in the 1960s and 1970s, you suddenly saw a girl in a swimsuit running on the beach in a Romanian film. This visual impact was absolutely revolutionary.

The 1980s were really golden years: simple, upward, free, rebellious, full of passion, shining with idealism and romanticism. At that time, we wore bell-bottoms, listened to Teresa Teng, talked about Sutter and Freud, organized bicycle outings, exchanged food stamps for eggs and peanuts, watched women’s volleyball teams and in-house movies, read trendy poetry, and elected our own people’s representatives; At that time, the school often invited writers, poets, translators and artists to give lectures.

/”Reading, Years, Growth”, from “The Embrace of Loneliness and Solitude”


Xu Zhiyuan: The girl in the swimsuit actually arouses your individual consciousness, which should be especially important for you to engage in art and literature in the future.

Happy: Yes, our life is very monotonous. As long as there is an open-air movie, the children do not have any other means of communication, and they are all running to tell each other.

Xu Zhiyuan: I guess it is similar to Mr. Lu Xun going to a social drama.

Happy: Yes. It was in those circumstances that this romantic country remained in my childhood memory. Therefore, the choice of English or Romanian at the university is also influenced by these factors. I am particularly eager to go to that romantic country. Perhaps at that moment, the seeds of literature were also planted in my heart.


Romanian scenery

Xu Zhiyuan: Let me add a very interesting thing to you. You know that there was a radio host in Hangzhou, Mr. Wan Feng (1) , who was the first person in East China to create a nightly program talking about “sex”. He was also inspired by seeing Romanian pictorials.

Happy: Yes, this is a common memory for me and some of my good friends, like Psyllium (2) . We all talk about moments like these invariably, and moments like these definitely awaken individual consciousness.


1979 Romanian Pictorial

In fact, Romanian is much more difficult than English, and one of the biggest obstacles is “playing de le” (sound, finger-flicking trill). At that time, when I learned this sound, I put a few pots of water next to it and practiced hard. After a few months, I was suddenly so excited that I rushed to the post office to call my parents. They were puzzled because they didn’t understand what it meant.

At that time, our foreign language college was basically a small class, with 15 students, forming many speaking pairs and dialogue groups. At that time, young people were still relatively shy about expressing their emotions, but expressing them in foreign languages ​​would be more natural. Later, our class became several pairs.


Xu Zhiyuan: How did this brand-new language, which is more complicated than you imagine, make you embark on the road of translation?

Happy: There is a story in it. If you learn a small language, you will have various opportunities to accompany the group. At that time, it was also advocated that Chinese youth should communicate more with foreign youths. At that time, a delegation of more than 100 people came from Romania, and I was responsible for accompanying the art troupe as an interpreter. So one morning, a Romanian actress, her name is Carmen Trocan, invited me to take a walk in the West Lake. After getting such news, I could not sleep at night, a beautiful young actress made such an offer, which is impossible to refuse no matter what. The next morning by the West Lake, she recited a poem for me in Romanian. I was very excited and thought that one day I must convert it into our beautiful Chinese.


She is as beautiful as the shadow of thought—

The smell from her back

Like a baby’s skin, like a freshly broken stone,

Like a cry from the language of death.

She has no weight, just like breathing.

Sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, big tears

Make her salty like an alien banquet

The much-celebrated salt.

She was as beautiful as the shadow of thought.

In the vast waters, she is the only land.



/happy translation

Xu Zhiyuan: Just like when I met Sophie Marceau when I was young, she suddenly read a poem to me.

Happy: “Kalman” is Romanian, which is actually Carmen, and she is of Greek descent. At that time, the Romanian art delegation also brought rock and ballet. In the mid-1980s, it was quite impactful.


Happy with Ms. Kalman, May 1986

Xu Zhiyuan: What is the position of Romanian literature in the entire Eastern European system? I went to New York a few years ago and met Norman Manea, he talked about his early life, Romania is also very relaxed, there is wine to drink, talk about poetry and dance and so on. After he arrived in New York, he began to learn English from various people and taught in English. Later, he became an important “rogue” writer in the Western world. I was quite touched.


HAPPY: Specifically, Romanian literature is actually the most deeply influenced by French culture, which is why most of the artists and writers who came out of Romania went to France later. For example, let’s not forget the absurdist playwright Ionesco, who is from Romania. Let’s not forget Paul Celan, also a Jewish German-language writer from Romania. Paul Celan also has a lot of poems written directly in Romanian, let’s not forget, let’s not forget the sculptor Brenkush (3) , this is from Romania to France, and he also served as Rodin’s assistant. Brenkush later achieved such high achievement in the field of sculpture. Let’s not forget that Giorgio Enescu (4) is a Romanian past. Another few years ago, there was actually a Nobel Prize winner Herta Miller (5) who lived in Romania for more than 30 years before coming to Germany.

In the harshest times, writers can still explore world literature, and the nourishment of culture is endless. Romania’s autocracy is also relatively speaking. It used to have a very open and free society for many years. For example, Manea also wrote an article about the free and cheerful atmosphere in the air. Romania has always maintained close contact and contact with European literature and world literature, which has allowed such a small country with more than 20 million people to come out with so many masters. Including Zioran, who later settled in France, wrote in a distinctive French that instead developed a style of his.


Before Manea went to America, he had published many novels in Romanian. As a Jew, the concentration camp experience was also an important theme for him. Later, when the situation changed, he devoted himself to writing about Romania in a special period, all of which affected his status in the world literary world.


Happy: During the Republic of China, many literati had dual identities. They were both writers and translators. Lu Xun and Mao Dun said that they hoped to publish a publication on foreign literature, which was simpler and called Translation. The two hit it off and do what they say. Later, due to financial difficulties, the first few issues were compiled by Lu Xun himself, including the 32-page opening, which was determined by him, and the combination of pictures and texts was also his proposition. It was published again in the 1950s. Regardless of the format, content orientation, and style, it was completely copied from the “Translation”. Of course, Mr. Mao Dun served as the first editor-in-chief. In 1959, Zhou Yang suggested that it be changed to “World Literature”, which has been used to this day.


World Literature in Different Periods
– In 1934, Lu Xun founded the “Translation” magazine
– In 1953, under the leadership of Mao Dun, “Yiwen” magazine resumed publication
– In 1959, the editorial board member Zhou Yang changed its name to “World Literature”

In the early 1980s, the translator, Mr. Yang Leyun, had been working in World Literature for more than 20 years. He was about to retire and began to look for a successor. Then I found teacher Yi Lijun from Beijing Foreign Studies University (now Beijing Foreign Studies University), an excellent translator of Polish literature who just passed away this year, and she recommended me. So I became attached to World Literature in 1983.



Xu Zhiyuan: What was your first visit to the editorial department like? Editorial office in the 1980s.

Happy: Impressed. Beijing Foreign Studies University is located in the western suburbs, over Weigong Village. It takes several cars to get to No. 5 Jianguomen Street, where the Academy of Social Sciences is located. The first time I went there, I was excited and apprehensive. Before I graduated, I was still imagining what I should say when I saw Mr. Gao Mang and Mr. Li Wenjun on the way to the editorial department. All these expectations were actually completely shattered by another atmosphere.

Going to Jianguomen, the 11th floor of the building of the Academy of Social Sciences is our Institute of Foreign Literature, where the editorial office of “World Literature” is located. After a long aisle, I met Mr. Gao Mang. He likes to paint, and he always wears a painting smocked overalls. When I saw Mr. Gao Mang, when I was still thinking about what to say, Mr. Gao didn’t say anything “you are welcome”, but said abruptly, “If you want to become famous and rich, don’t come to World Literature. “

I was stunned at the time. I realized later that as an editor, he has to sacrifice a lot and give up, that is to say, he has to give up some personal interests. To be an editor is to make wedding dresses for others.


It was also a relatively heyday for world literature, with more than 30 editors in every language. When I had meetings with them as an intern, I felt that there was a magical atmosphere in English, Russian, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Japanese, Czech, and Arabic. It was like going to the United Nations for a meeting. I also gradually realized that literature should not actually become a world republic. This kind of equal, free and lively atmosphere is very moving. For example, editors can directly criticize the editor-in-chief and give opinions to each other.

I remember Mr. Gao Mang said at that time that we should teach young people a lesson about what it means to be an editor.

“You can see that Marx was an editor, Engels was an editor, Mao Zedong was an editor, then Zhou Enlai was an editor, Li Dazhao was an editor, Chen Duxiu was an editor…” At this time, Mr. Li Wenjun, who translated Faulkner and Kafka He said something softly next to him, but they were all wrong later. That’s the kind of relaxed atmosphere. You can feel that we are doing what we love, and we are doing it as we really are.


Every time our editorial department has a meeting, we will have a dinner. This is one of our traditions. I heard that every time Mao Dun came to a meeting or finalized a draft, he must have a meal in the end. Then Mr. Li Wenjun is also a gourmet. His logic is that you can love life if you love food. To love life is to love literature. At that time, we often went to roast duck restaurants, because Mr. Gao Mang liked roast duck very much. He said that the person who invented roast duck should win the Nobel Prize.

Xu Zhiyuan: World literature is ultimately Beijing-style.

Happy: Yes. After each meal, Mr. Li Wenjun would take the clothes off the hangers for the ladies and open them for them to put on. After he later became editor-in-chief, this elegant habit has been maintained. All these bits and pieces of our predecessors will affect us. There are too many people in the Foreign Languages ​​Institute, including Mr. Feng Zhi, Mr. Bian Zhilin, and Mr. Ge Baoquan. I went to the editorial department. Mr. Gao Mang took me to visit them one by one, so that some people thought I was his relatives. children.

Xu Zhiyuan: What would the topic selection at that time look like?

Gao Xing: The editorial department has ordered a large number of foreign publications and books. We have to select topics by reading a large number of original texts, and also track the development of foreign literature. Earlier, Mr. Xia Yan’s daughter, Shen Ning, was in our editorial department. She helped the editorial department subscribe to a large number of foreign language publications and original books through her relationship, and also created some other learning opportunities for us.


Editors must not only be proficient in foreign languages, but also have a considerable level of aesthetics and literary sensitivity. For example, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Sun Stone” (6) are all selected in this way, and then systematically introduced to make them more powerful. albums and albums.

Xu Zhiyuan: Looking back now, World Literature is really a super buyer of literature. Many foreign writers’ works are imported by you, and then they attract the attention of Chinese readers. Including the García Márquez you mentioned just now.

Happy: For example, Günter Glass (7) , whose “Tom and Jerry” was published by us; for example, Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” also came from here, and let’s say door Luo wait. During a special period, World Literature, as the only window, did a lot of things that should be of great merit now. When the local literary resources in China had not kept up in time, a special kind of “alternative nutrition” was formed. “.


Xu Zhiyuan: Different languages ​​shape people differently. What do you think about it?

Happy: Indeed. For example, those who study Russian have been influenced by Russian literature for a long time. They are generally very heroic, write long sentences, and like to raise their emotions to a certain height, and they all feel that they are Pushkin; and those who study English are relatively cold and humorous. ; Those who learn French will be more witty and agile; those who learn German are more calm and pragmatic; those who learn Japanese are generally polite. I have some Japanese colleagues, and it is very difficult to communicate with them in etiquette, because every time I say a word, he has to bow, “Thank you for your teaching.” Then I said one more sentence, and he wanted to “thank you for teaching me”. It’s impossible to have such a conversation, and I’m really not used to it all at once. Those who learn Spanish are relatively more localized in our editorial department. Logically, we would think that Spain should be unrestrained, romantic, and enthusiastic, but it is not very obvious in our Spanish-speaking colleagues.

Xu Zhiyuan: How did you feel when you met everyone in the editorial department? Because they were all printed on books before, very far away.

Happy: Yes. I remember going to Mr. Feng Zhi’s house, Mr. Gao Mang would always buy the fruit first. Mr. Feng sat very dignifiedly behind the desk, and he listened more often. In fact, he is very concerned about current affairs.


Then Mr. Bian Zhilin has another style. He is highly short-sighted and seems to keep his head down. He doesn’t look at the visitors, and he always talks there, like talking to himself. Moreover, he is from Haimen, Jiangsu, and he speaks many dialects. In fact, it’s not particularly understandable, but it doesn’t matter, it feels special. At that time, I especially hoped that the husband would read “Broken Chapters” by himself. It must be very interesting.


He gives the impression that he is a scholar and poet in an ivory tower, but he is not. He is a person who really looks up to the sky and faces the earth. He could not come back from his visit to the UK at that time. He came back specially when he heard the news of the founding of New China.

Mr. Ge Baoquan makes people feel like a spring breeze, especially warm and easy-going. Mr. Ge turned out to be a high-ranking diplomat in the Chinese embassy in the Soviet Union. He would take the initiative to pour tea and water for us and prepare fruit biscuits.


Xu Zhiyuan: That generation means that they have just come out of a long and huge storm. The period when they used to be high-spirited and creative was frozen.

Happy: The traces of trauma are still very heavy, but at this time I realized the advantages of multiple identities. For example, Mr. Feng and Mr. Bian, they are trying to keep up with the rhythm of the times. When they found their poetry creation If they can’t keep up to a certain extent, they will immediately change their roles and become researchers or translators. Therefore, for a long period of time, when normal poetry creation was difficult to carry out, they began to do a lot of translation work, and literary translation just gave them another way to express themselves, and they also made their own special contributions to the society.

Xu Zhiyuan: Like Mr. Shen Congwen, he began to study the history of clothing in a special period (8) .

Happily: Like Mr. Feng’s later translation of Rilke, his contribution was too great. “Whoever is lonely at this moment will always be lonely” was introduced by Mr. Feng. These old gentlemen, including our senior at that time Mr. Chen Jingrong, the female poet of the Nine Leaf School (9) , always asked you to come to the door to make an appointment at that time, and therefore had many opportunities to contact these seniors.


Xu Zhiyuan: You said Mr. Li Wenjun, he found Kafka, and it really made many Chinese writers realize that literature is a language that can be expressed in this way, that novels can be boundless, transcend various boundaries, life and death, and use insight A change in concept, this is a new way of creation. That’s the beauty of literature, you identify yourself in other people’s stories.

One morning, Gregor Samsa woke from a restless sleep to find himself in bed transformed into a giant beetle. He was lying on his back, his back as hard as iron armor was pressed against the bed, he raised his head slightly, and saw that his dome-like brown belly was divided into many curved hard pieces, the quilt could barely cover the tip of the belly, all Sliding down. Compared to his huge body, his many legs were pitifully thin, and they were all dancing helplessly in front of his eyes. “What’s wrong with me?” he thought. This is not a dream. Although his room was a little too small, it was indeed a room for ordinary people, and he still lay quietly among the four familiar walls. On the table where the open samples of fabrics lay—Samsa was a traveling salesman—still hung the painting, which he had recently cut out of a pictorial and put in a beautiful gold frame. It depicts a lady wearing a leather hat and a leather scarf, sitting upright and handing the viewer a heavy leather muff that covers her entire forearm. Gregor’s eyes turned to the window again, and the sky was dark—the rain could be heard beating on the sills—and his mood grew melancholy. “It would be nice to get some sleep and forget about all this bad stuff,” he thought. But he couldn’t do it at all. Usually, he was used to sleeping on his right side, but under the current circumstances, he could no longer take such a posture. No matter how hard he turned to the right, he still rolled back, stomach upside down. He tried at least a hundred times and closed his eyes to avoid seeing those struggling legs, and then he had to stop when he felt a dull pain in his waist that he had never experienced before.

/ “Metamorphosis”

/【Austria】Kafka(Franz Kafka)

Translated by Li Wenjun

/ In “World Literature” No. 1, 1979

Happy: It really makes people feel extremely shocked, and it feels like a sudden opening. Therefore, I also host a column of “World Literature”, “Chinese writers talk about foreign literature”. We also continue the tradition of Mr. Lu Xun, and we must allow Chinese literature and foreign literature to collide and exchange.

Xu Zhiyuan: I saw the 2013 issue of World Literature, where different people were recalling their relationship with the magazine. Among them, Mr. Tong Daoming is a famous Chekhov research expert and translator. He later wrote a play about Ba Jin and Cao Yu meeting in a dream. At that time, Ba Jin began to translate Herzen’s Past and Thoughts. Later, Mr. Tong wrote a paragraph. This memory is very well written. He said that in the scene where Ba Jin and Cao Yu met in a dream, he wrote such a line to Ba Jin, which is equivalent to what he said through Ba Jin’s mouth——

I would also like to thank the two writers Dante in Italy and Herzen in Russia. Spiritually, the first person to wake me up was Dante who wrote The Divine Comedy. Since 1969, I have been fascinated by Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”… Later, I have been fascinated by Herzen’s “Capriccio”, which I made up my mind to translate into Chinese. When I translated to the ninth chapter of the sixth volume of this book, I was so excited that I burst into tears. Listen to what Herzen has to say! “Know the truth, this is the way out, get rid of falsehood, this is the truth.” “No one is indispensable, but everyone can become an irreplaceable force of reality… If a person has something to say, let him say it. , someone will listen; if he has any beliefs in his heart, let him preach.” Yes, yes, the most important thing is to “know the truth and tell the truth”, if you can live to the day when the clouds open and the sun rises , I will come out to write articles, not to say empty words, let alone tell lies. I may not be right, but what I write must be the truth. My proposition is: tell the truth and give the heart to the readers. (Pause) I’m afraid I’m sorry for the hardships I suffered in those ten years…

/Tong Daoming

/From the 5th issue of “World Literature” in 2013, a pen talk in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of “World Literature”, “Some Memories and Reflections”

I think in a special period, foreign literature like his is a very strong inspiration.


Happy: And Mr. Tong did it later. His many thousand-character essays are very meaningful. He never speaks empty words or lies, and he is also full of artistic and literary feelings. Mr. Tong often comes to our office. He writes plays and sometimes poems. For him, the happiest moment is to talk about literature. He would say to me, “Come here, I just wrote a poem, you can listen to it.” Then after reading it, he would ask, “Happy, how did I write?” Light.

(To be continued)










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