Golden Age: First Chapters - Brendan

By Brendan O'Kane, published

I suppose everybody hears the author's voice slightly differently when they're reading a novel. The translations in Wang in Love and Bondage didn't speak with the voice I'd heard when I read Wang's writing, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to organize a group effort to re-translate 黄金时代, the novella that Wang was fondest of. Wang's widow 李银河 Li Yinhe kindly gave her permission, and so we were off.

Truth be told, she even admired whores a bit. It wasn’t a question of whether whores were good or bad; it was that she simply wasn’t one, the same way a cat isn’t a dog. If everyone goes around calling a cat a dog, the cat’s bound to start feeling out of sorts, and now that everyone was calling Chen Qingyang a whore, she was completely unnerved, as if she didn’t even know who she was anymore.

Download this as a PDF. [No longer downloadable, sorry]


# 1.   

A good job! By translating 破鞋 into whore, you have transferred Wang Xiaobo's casual, comical, and careless style into English. If he lived, Wang would take you as his Voice of American. Best wishes. Dahu

dahu, July 31, 2007, 6:41a.m.

# 2.   

'slut' is always a good alternative.

Prince Roy, August 13, 2007, 11:09a.m.

# 3.   

Cheers, guys.

I picked 'whore' over 'slut' for a couple of reasons - partly impact (since 'slut' no longer carries the same punch it did), but mostly morphological: the original text uses both 破鞋 and the verb form 搞破鞋, and translating those as "whore" and "whoring around" seemed best to me.

Brendan O'Kane, August 15, 2007, 8:19a.m.

# 4.   

Made me want to read the book again. It has been long time. Wang is kind of fading away from my world.

HAI, September 15, 2007, 7:24p.m.

# 5.   

A nice translation. A minor mistake: 跷二郎腿 is 'to sit cross-legged'. You translation sounds like he is sitting at one end of the bed with legs streched out, but the posture 'erlangtui' suggests that he's probably sitting on the edge.

Paul, November 8, 2007, 12:24a.m.

# 6.   

And, 给小鞋穿 means 'to treat unfairly' or 'to make it hot for somebody'.

Paul, November 8, 2007, 12:27a.m.

# 7.   

Hey, Paul -- d'oh! You're quite right, yes. Thanks for the corrections!

Brendan, November 12, 2007, 10:23p.m.

# 8.   

Dear Brendan O'Kane,

Please kindly immediately remove all English language text from WANG IN LOVE AND BONDAGE, published by and copyright held by SUNY Press.

Thank you.


Jennie Doling

Jennie Doling, January 5, 2008, 10:49a.m.

# 9.   

Dear Ms. Doling, contains no text from Wang in Love and Bondage. The translations on the website are original and bear no relationship to the Zhang/Sommers translation, other than having been inspired by a sense of shock in the translation community at what was generally felt to be a fifth-rate job by Zhang and Sommers. Before beginning work on the translations, we contacted Wang Xiaobo's widow, Li Yinhe, and obtained permission from her to create partial translations for use online, though we believe ourselves to be covered by fair use here anyway. A glance at any of the translations you've posted to will confirm this; might I suggest reading first next time?

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at I'll be in the US until next Thursday morning; if you would like to call before then, I can be reached at 215-880-8629.

Best regards,

Brendan O'Kane

Brendan O'Kane, January 5, 2008, 1:09p.m.

# 10.   

王二has one of best narrative voices in any work of fiction I've ever read. The Sommers/Zhang translation seemed to completely miss it, thereby sucking a ton of fun out of the book. Are there any other translations of 小波 out there or is this book all the non-Chinese speaking world has?

Michele Scrimenti, March 14, 2011, 12:39p.m.

# 11.   

That's all there is for now, though an agent now represents the rights to the rest of his works, so we can hope that more will be forthcoming. I have been gnawing on a collection of his essays for yonks, now, and you'll see that eventually.

Eric Abrahamsen, March 16, 2011, 12:19p.m.


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