一周一句 Sunday Sentence #7

By Jack Hargreaves, published

Part of: Sunday Sentence

cover image

This week's Sunday Sentence is something entirely different: Yeng Pway Ngon 英培安 inserts himself into the narrative on page 25 of 《骚动》(2002), translated by Jeremy Tiang as Unrest. Thank you to Jeremy for setting this week's challenge.

Please input your translation in the comments box at the bottom of the page.

The sentence to translate is:
我启动电脑的时候,小说的女主人翁和男主人翁正在床上。我的手指在键盘上犹疑了好一阵子,不能决定应该由我还是由他们其中一人来叙述这场性爱。无论如何,窥视小说主人翁的私生活是读者的权利,所以作为读者的你是可以看到的,床上的性活动正在进行中,男主人翁的状态似乎并不理想。

Remember, you can post your translation anytime between now and next Sunday, so you have plenty of time to ponder and refine it.

Synopsis:
Four leftist teenagers in 1950s Malaya dedicate themselves to overthrowing colonialism and bringing about a better world. With time, their paths diverge — into capitalism, into adultery, into the dark heart of the Cultural Revolution. Disillusioned and middle-aged, they look back at their lives from the prosperous but soulless 1980s, wondering what has become of their dreams and ideals.

Why this sentence:
In Unrest, Yeng Pway Ngon himself makes several appearances in the narrative, positioning himself as an intrusive author having a conversation with the reader. This places the translator in an interesting position, serving as a conduit for a voice that needs to feel like it’s being transmitted directly from the writer's brain to the reader's. These sentences present a particularly comic use of this device, with a sex scene between the two main characters taking place almost incidentally as the author muses about how best to describe it.

Author Bio:
Yeng Pway Ngon is a Singaporean poet, novelist and critic in the Chinese literary scene in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. A prolific writer, Yeng’s works have been translated into English, Malay and Dutch. Yeng received the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s Book Award in 1988, and the Singapore Literature Prize in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2003 for his contributions to literature in Singapore, and the SEA Write Award in 2013.

Thanks again to Jeremy Tiang for the suggestion and background.

Looking forward to your translations!

Comments

# 1.   

The novel’s female and male protagonists were lying on the bed as I turned on the computer screen. My fingers hovered some time over the keyboard, I was unable to decide if the scene of copulation should be narrated by me or either one of the characters. No matter, the right to peek into the private lives of our protagonists belongs to the reader you and you should be able to see the sexual act proceeding now and notice the male protagonist giving it seems a less than ideal performance.

Me Jun, July 13, 2020, 1:47p.m.

# 2.   

When I turned on the computer, the heroine and hero of the novel were in bed.

My fingers hesitated for a while on the keyboard; I couldn't decide whether I or one of them should describe the lovemaking.

In any case, peeping into the private lives of the novel's protagonists is the right of the reader; therefore, you the reader can see that sexual activity is in progress on the bed, and our male hero's situation certainly doesn't seem ideal.

SharonD, July 13, 2020, 7:26p.m.

# 3.   

Let me take a poke at this...

When I flicked on the computer, I found the female protagonist and male protagonist had become coiled together on the bed. I hesitated for a moment, my fingers hovering over the keyboard. I wasn't sure if the narration should proceed from my own point of view, or if I should have one of them describing it. In any case, it's the right of the reader to peer into the private lives of fictional characters, so, with the action progressing on the bed, I knew I had to put something down. It looked like the male protagonist was struggling a bit.

 Dylan Levi King, July 14, 2020, 7:21a.m.

# 4.   

When I started up my laptop, the female and male protagonists were in bed together. My fingers hovered over the keyboard. I couldn’t decide from whose perspective to narrate their session of lovemaking——one of theirs or mine. Anyhow, it’s your right as the reader to peer behind the curtain of the Ongs’ life together, so I hope you can tell that Mr Ong’s coital performance was less than ideal. 我启动电脑的时候,小说的女主人翁和男主人翁正在床上。我的手指在键盘上犹疑了好一阵子,不能决定应该由我还是由他们其中一人来叙述这场性爱。无论如何,窥视小说主人翁的私生活是读者的权利,所以作为读者的你是可以看到的,床上的性活动正在进行中,男主人翁的状态似乎并不理想。

The most difficult part of this for me was "所以作为读者的你是可以看到的" - I'm still not happy with what I have. I can't decide if the emphasis is on the author hoping that he is satisfying/facilitating their right to peek or on the reader simply being able to see it because it is their right. If the second, I would probably go for something like: "...together, so you might catch that Mr Ong's coital performance was less than ideal."

Jack Hargreaves, July 14, 2020, 9:15a.m.

# 5.   

我启动电脑的时候,小说的女主人翁和男主人翁正在床上。我的手指在键盘上犹疑了好一阵子,不能决定应该由我还是由他们其中一人来叙述这场性爱。无论如何,窥视小说主人翁的私生活是读者的权利,所以作为读者的你是可以看到的,床上的性活动正在进行中,男主人翁的状态似乎并不理想。

When I switched on the computer, the main male and female characters were in the bed. My fingers lay hesitantly on the keyboard for a while, unable to decide whether it should be down to me or one of them to narrate this erotic scene. In any case, readers have a right to peep in on the private lives of those in books, so, as a reader it’s okay for you to indulge yourself. The activities in the bedroom are underway, but the the male protagonist found himself in a far from ideal state.

Lucy Elwood, July 14, 2020, 10:35a.m.

# 6.   

When I was switching on the computer, the male and female protagonists in this novel were lying in bed. For quite some time, my fingers hovered tentatively over the keyboard. I was undecided as to who should spill the details of their lovemaking—should it be me or one of them? In any case, the reader does get a pass to be a voyeur feasting on the intimate lives of a novel's characters. Which is why, as my reader, you should be able to see my two protagonists getting it on in bed, and realising that the male protagonist doesn't seem to be in tip-top form.

Notes: Was wondering if I should stick with "have the right" or try out "get a pass to" for 读者的权利. Ditto for "private lives" vs "intimate lives". Went with the latter in the end as it felt like it could work in this context. I might also have given myself a bit too much liberty with the descriptions.

Christina Ng, July 14, 2020, 11:20a.m.

# 7.   

I find the novel’s main characters in bed when I turn the computer on. My fingers hesitate on the keyboard for a long while, unable to decide if it should be me or one of them who narrates this round of love making. Either way, peeping at the private lives of a novel’s characters is the right of you, the reader, so you can see that while things are progressing on the bed, the state of the male character seems far from ideal.

Lorna A, July 15, 2020, 2:05p.m.

# 8.   

我启动电脑的时候,小说的女主人翁和男主人翁正在床上。我的手指在键盘上犹疑了好一阵子,不能决定应该由我还是由他们其中一人来叙述这场性爱。无论如何,窥视小说主人翁的私生活是读者的权利,所以作为读者的你是可以看到的,床上的性活动正在进行中,男主人翁的状态似乎并不理想。

When I turned on my computer, the hero and the heroine of this novel were laying in bed about to have sex. My fingers lingered over the keyboard for a moment, hesitating whether I should describe the scene through their eyes or my own. In any case, you are the reader, you have all the right to peep into the characters’ private life. Can you see? They are going at it, but our man doesn’t seem to do well.

I haven't read anything from the author, so I took some liberty and had the narrator break the fourth wall in a way a bit different from the other translations I've seen. I went with "hero" and "heroine", which felt somewhat more humorous to me (considering the setting of the novel). The "Can you see?" towards the end makes it as if the writer was right there near the reader, pointing at the scene.

Leonardo Magnelli, July 15, 2020, 3:07p.m.

# 9.   

我启动电脑的时候,小说的女主人翁和男主人翁正在床上。我的手指在键盘上犹疑了好一阵子,不能决定应该由我还是由他们其中一人来叙述这场性爱。无论如何,窥视小说主人翁的私生活是读者的权利,所以作为读者的你是可以看到的,床上的性活动正在进行中,男主人翁的状态似乎并不理想。

When I start up my computer the novel’s female and male protagonists are in bed. My fingers hesitate for a moment on the keyboard; I can’t decide whether it’s up to me or to one of them to narrate this sex scene. When it comes down to it, spying on the protagonist’s private life is the reader’s right. So, as the reader, you can see the sex that’s happening right now on the bed, and you can see that the male protagonist is not in a great state.

TDyson, July 16, 2020, 4:12a.m.

# 10.   

When I turned on the computer, the two protagonists, the girl and the boy, had just started to do it. I froze my fingers there on the keyboard, hesitating, not able to decide if I should be the one to describe it or if one of them should narrate this 'act of love', as it were. In any case, to peep in on the personal lives of main characters is the reader's privilege. So, esteemed reader: As you can see, as the sex act upon the bed got under way, the boy seemed to be giving a less-than-ideal performance.

This was fun, and not as much work as I thought it would be. Wish I had gotten into it earlier than week 7!

William Dou, July 17, 2020, 2:11a.m.

# 11.   

The male and female protagonists were on the bed when I started up the computer. I held my fingers over the keyboard for a long while, hesitating. I couldn’t decide if I should be the one to narrate this sex scene, or if it should be left to one of the characters in the act. In any case, it’s the reader’s right to peek into the private lives of the novel’s protagonists, so you guys are privy to it as readers. As you can see, the sex in bed was underway, and the male protagonist didn’t seem to be in his best form.

Phyllis Ang, July 18, 2020, 2:33p.m.

# 12.   

When I turned on my computer, the heroine and hero conjuring up in my mind were on bed. With my fingers hovering above the keyboard, I was considering who was the best candidate to relate this sex scene. Myself or one of the characters? Readers have the right to spy on the private life of the protagonist in any novel. You can watch the love-making on bed, where the male protagonist seemed to be out of form.

Huiting Teng, July 18, 2020, 2:59p.m.

*

Your email will not be published
Raw HTML will be removed
Try using Markdown:
*italic*
**bold**
[link text](http://link-address.com/)
End line with two spaces for a single line break.

*
*