Finnegans Wake, a hugely complicated work by Irish author James Joyce, will get a receptionfrom Chinese readers in September.
The first volume of Finnegans Wake was translated by Dai Congrong, a Chinese language andliterature professor of Fudan University, and will be published by Shanghai People’s PublishingHouse.
“I was aware about how tough it would be from the very beginning,” Dai says.
“Yet without Chinese translation, the book would remain a mystery for Chinese readers,especially those who love James Joyce.”
Dai says she spent 10 years translating the work. And this is just the first volume.
At a recent seminar about the Chinese edition of Finnegans Wake, Dai shared her experience oftranslating the book with a group of scholars from the literature department of Chinese Academyof Social Sciences.
In the translated work, Dai keeps about half of the author’s original words, and has put downevery possible meaning of some complicated words that have rich meanings as footnotes.
“Many words in this book have very rich meanings, and that’s why people find it hard to get itright,” Dai says. “As a translator, I think I tried to not translate each word and sentence, onlybased on my own understanding. This way, we can leave more space for the readers.”
She says the footnotes are equally important as Joyce’s original text, as they show the author’sopen-mindedness and diversity.
Joyce, an Irish novelist and poet, is considered one of the most influential writers in themodernist avant-garde of the early 20th century.
Finnegans Wake, which Joyce worked on for 17 years in his later years, is a work of comicfiction and significant for its experimental style.
The book is also known as the most difficult work in English literature. Upon writing the book,Joyce once said that it would take people 300 years to fully understand its meaning.
While a French translation of the book took 30 years and the German version took 19 years, ittook Dai just a decade to translate the first volume.
“In order to grasp its meaning, I had to break up each word and study it individually, as the bookis full of word combinations that Joyce created,” she says. “For example, the word ‘livvylong’ canbe understood as ‘Livvy is a long river’, or as ‘life long’.”
More than 10 scholars attended the discussion and shared their opinions on the translatededition.
Liu Yiqing, an English teacher from Peking University, thinks the book should not only considerreaders who are Joyce experts.
“There is still something we can improve in the way the footnotes are presented,” she says. “While putting every possible meaning in Chinese into the text, it will break the integrity of thestory. We should make it a story that is also interesting for college students to read andunderstand.”
Zhang Yu, a 26-year-old student who studied comparative literature during her postgraduatestudies, says she heard about Finnegans Wake at university, but was taken aback by theabnormal writing style and found it difficult to understand.
“I am very much looking forward to the translated version in Chinese, even though there may beobstacles,” she says.
Wang Weisong, editor-in-chief of Shanghai People’s Publishing House, says readership of theChinese translation mainly focuses on Chinese scholars who study Joyce’s works.
But they also hope that all fans of Joyce will love the book.
(China Daily 09/18/2012 page19)