No "Fooling Around"
By Lucas Klein, published
As my first post on Paper Republic, I want to be very serious. No "fooling around," indeed.
As a follow-up to an earlier post on 折騰, here's what my dictionary has to say:
折騰 zhē teng 1. (翻來倒去) turn from side to side; toss about 2. (反復做某事) do sth. over and over again 3. (折磨) cause physical or mental suffering; get sb. down
Based on this definition, this entry--and Paper Republic in general--seems to be an example of def. 1, because we're certainly 翻來倒去, or, to mistranslate that phrase, "translating over and over."
But for some reason my dictionary doesn't tell me whether 折騰 is transitive or intransitive, or when, leaving it only suggested in the grammar of the definitions.
I bring this up because based on what I've heard, officials in the Party--whose task it will be to undertake Hu Jintao's directives--interpret "don't zhēteng" to mean that in the past, the Party was too willing to "zhēteng rén" 折騰人, or be more interested in causing harm to people than be productive and work on developing the economy and creating a harmonious society. I guess for that reason I prefer bù zhēteng 不折騰 to be translated as "don't fuss" or "don't be a bother," with the understanding that it also implies "don't fuss with people," "don't be a bother to people." It's a bit more formal, I think, and I think it gets at the diversity of the phrase's meanings.
But the point is not to find one translation for one word that will match all possible contexts for its meanings. Any of the options in the previous post & following comments seem fine by me. The question is, how do grammar (transitive vs. intransitive) and context (govt. officials concerned about the history of their party) affect our understanding of how to translate?
Of course, these are, as they say, SO (source-oriented) questions in the world of translation, or questions that presume some sense of standard of accuracy against which we can judge translations. For that reason alone, some of us (and me, depending on my mood) might want to step aside from this sort of question altogether. But, especially in the translation of poetry (more on this in future posts), I think we've become very focused on the TO (target-oriented) elements of translation, and sometimes this has worked to our deficit. Half of our task as translators is to convey the message into English, but the other half is to make sure that we're conveying the right message, and that our understanding of Chinese--not just the word, but the grammar, and the historical and political contexts--is solid enough that we know what we're trying to convey.