"I'm a soldier in the battlefield of literature, practicing between desk and little stool for more than a dozen years. I use the pen as a weapon and bleed onto paper. What I feel proud of myself for is my hard work and plain living. The soldier does not master the military strategies of a general, but I'm confident I've finished what a soldier should have done. I did it before, do it now, and hope, will do it in the future. On the day I step into the tomb chamber, I hope I can receive a short tablet, inscribed: 'A soldier who has fulfilled his responsibility in literary circles, is sleeping here.'" -- Lao She
February 3 marks the 105th birthday anniversary of Lao She, the famous Chinese playwright and author of humorous, satirical novels and short stories. As a way of recalling this people's artist, the Lao She Memorial Hall is searching around the globe for translators of the great master's works and will confer to them the title of "honored members of the Lao She Memorial Hall".
Born in 1899, Lao She is known around the world for the masterpieces Rickshaw Boy (Luotuo Xiangzi), Four Generations Under One Roof (Si Shi Tong Tang) and Beneath the Red Banner (Zheng Hong Qi Xia). Beneath the Red Banner is usually thought of as an autobiographical work.
Shu Ji, daughter of Lao She and curator of the Lao She Memorial Hall, awarded the certificates to the five translators. The Lao She Memorial Hall is still searching around the globe for all translators of this great master's works.
Japan began translating Lao She's novels in the 1930s. Japanese Sinologists, in succession, translated and published works such as Birthday of Xiao Po, Mr. Zhao Ziyue and Rickshaw Boy. During World War II, the United States made an unauthorized translation of Rickshaw Boy and gave it a happy ending. After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, many novels and plays of Lao She were translated in Japan, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Vietnam. In the 1980s, more works were added to the translation list. Incomplete statistics show that more than 20 works of Lao She have been translated into more than 20 languages.
Shu Ji was full of emotion when talking about the translation of his father's works. "As Lao She's children, we feel extremely grateful for foreign scholars and translators who have contributed a lot to publicize Lao She's literary achievements and for spreading Chinese culture. As far as we know, there are over 60 translators from different countries, or maybe more we don't know of. So we want to find them and award them with certificates of ‘Honored Member of Lao She Memorial Hall'," she said.
The five translators who have received the certificates now either work for newspapers or do full time translations. In stuttering Chinese, they expressed their own feelings about Lao She's works. German translator Uwe Krauter said, "In 1980, when we were trying to introduce the Beijing People's Art Theater and its play Teahouse to Europe, we worried that audiences might not have understood it. But to our surprise, many of them had read the translated version of this work."
Japanese translators Hiramatsu Keiko and Fuse Naoko took a special trip from Tokyo to Beijing to participate in the award ceremony. Fuse Naoko said that she came into contact with Lao She's work in 1982. Though, to date, she has only translated two pieces from the Humorous Collection of Lao She Works, and she said that she had fallen in love with this great writer. She plans to translate more of Lao She works into Japanese.
An American friend, whose Chinese name is Kong An, said, "I am always thinking what Lao She himself would think if he was alive today. I suggest we read more works by him, and thereby better understanding his spirit."
"Lao She's works are interesting, and the delicious food of old Beijing under his pen are also fine," said John Howard-Gibbon from Canada humorously, who translated Lao She's Teahouse.
(China.org.cn by Li Jinhui, February 6, 2004)