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Great writers interpreting great writers

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When a great writer translates a great writer, he or she becomes a cultural ambassador between nations and peoples. That is the role played for decades by Oldrich Kral, in introducing Chinese literature to the Czech Republic, and more recently by Li Su. As Chinese President Xi Jinping begins his state visit to the country, let's meet the two translators.

85-year-old sinologist Oldrich Kral is the one who first introduced Czech readers to the world famous Chinese novel, "A Dream of Red Mansions".

The Chinese government recognized his contribution with an award in 2003, 240 years after the original author Cao Xueqin passed away.

Kral began learning Chinese in 1949 and became a student majoring in Chinese in Peking University in 1956 and 1957.

"I was a postgraduate student, majoring in novels. I wrote an essay about 'Ru Lin Wai Shi' - known in English as 'The Scholars'," said Oldrich Kral.

Kral went back to his homeland after graduation and spent 15 years translating "A Dream of Red Mansions". He welcomes President Xi's visit.

"It's a new era for bilateral ties. There are plenty of interesting things that we can learn from each other. I hope this is a new start," said said Oldrich Kral.

Li Su, a younger 'sinologist', is also contributing his talents to the literary exchange.

"Czech readers like ancient Chinese literature. Many works have been translated. Among modern works, 'Wolf Totem' is quite popular and influential in the Czech Republic,"

"Mo Yan is also famous here after he won the Nobel Prize. A major Czech press has been publishing his works," said Li.

Li has spent at least 8 hours a day on translation in recent years, and introduced a lot of Chinese works in Czech.

"I think literature is the best way to communicate because it's the voice from the heart. We can get to know each other better,"

"We have found that Czech readers are more interested in Chinese authors than before, and more Chinese works are getting published here," said Li.

Both sinologists expect bilateral communication between the countries to go from strength to strength, not just in literature but across the cultural board.


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