This song, which appeared on Cui Jian's 1994 album "Balls Under the Red Flag" (红旗下的蛋) was the first Chinese song I ever attempted to translate. Many years and countless failed revisions later (and newly inspired by a documentary-in-progress about Chinese rock and roll), I've come back to it. As anthems go, it's pretty damned good...a political commentary cloaked in sexual imagery and double-entendre. If I had to reach for a western equivalent, I'd choose The Guess Who's "American Woman" and add a sprinkling of Bob Dylan, just for good measure.
I suspect that some of our translation colleagues have, at one time or another, translated this song into English and tucked it into their desk drawers. If so - if you're one of the proud, the reticent, the scholarly, the bored or the intrepid who have riffed this song and filed it away somewhere for posterity or inclement weather - please post your translation. The song raises some interesting language questions, and seems to defy most attempts at literal translation. As you can see, I've played these lyrics fast and loose.
Both eyes closed, leaning on you
All hands down, stroking me
I want this satisfaction
and need you to respond
I want to tell you everything
just don't be mad with me
It's never love or hate with you
you're no more than what you are
I'm exhausted and it's pointless
but I have to go on fighting you
Fuck you, I say, fuck you
I'll talk behind your back
In the end, we'll see who wins
who holds out to the last
My eyes are open now and angry
I see what you've become and I can't speak
I want to sing an amnesty
for all that's happened here
but my voice sounds strange to me...
(click "more" for the Chinese lyrics)
Music and lyrics by Cui Jian
English translation by Cindy Carter