I hereby declare: It is not necessary for me to finish reading every book I start.
In other words, next time a book bores me as much as this one did, I am going to stop reading it.
I admire what the author set out to do: analyze English-language textbooks to help university teachers guide non-native speakers of English in understanding science.
But this book-length research paper is basically just a bunch of lists. It’s about as dry a piece of writing as one could imagine. In fact, I never imagined it would be this dry, or I wouldn’t have bought the book in the first place.
I bought this at the National University of Singapore "EResource Discovery Day" book sale. It was published by Singapore University Press. The topic is interesting and relevant to my work, but I'm not sure the analysis will be.
Genre: Linguistics/English Date started / date finished: 02-Aug-23 to 27-Aug-23 Length: 290 pages ISBN: na Originally published in: 1978
I work for a science journal on the campus of Zhejiang Lab, a research institute dedicated to developing a variety of kinds of “intelligent computing” (artificial intelligence). I have a bachelor’s in computer science, but I have little knowledge of the development of artificial intelligence (something something… subsumption architecture… Eliza…). This book promised to remedy that.
There are English quotes and signs throughout this shop in a mall in Hangzhou, but I’m not sure I saw any books in English. I saw bilingual editions of the Harry Potter books, and LOTS of recognizable books translated from English and other European languages. I enjoyed looking around and soaking up the quiet atmosphere of words in ink on paper.
西西弗书店 (Xīxī fú shūdiàn)
Founded in 1993, this chain of over 360 shops in 80 cities across China is named after Sisyphus in the Greek myth. The website explains:
What Sisyphus is engaged in is a continuous movement, without purpose, without success or failure, good or evil. This action seems to be ineffective, but it contains awesome power. In the sense of stoicism, and with a touch of sacrifice, we hope to be the Sisyphus of the book and culture industry.
I’ve now read this book three times. I’ve read the 2019 Fenkl translation twice and the 1922 Gale translation once. I haven’t read the out-of-print 1974 Rutt translation. The Fenkl translation is more faithful to the original text, but the Gale translation is okay. For more information on all three translations, visit We Love Translations: World Literature in English:
See below for a list of characters in The Nine Cloud Dream.
I’ve given the character names as spelled by Fenkl and Gale and also the English meanings as given by Fenkl and Gale. Fenkl uses Chinese-style names using archaic-feel Wade-Giles romanization and Gale uses Korean-style names mixed with English names. I’m pretty sure Fenkl is using the same names that Rutt used.
(Scholars have determined that the original was written in classical Chinese, not Korean Hangul, but I think Gale was using a Hangul source text.)
Beware spoilers! Knowing who the characters are is a bit like knowing the plot.
You’ve seen the Disney movie. Maybe you’ve read the novel. But do you recognize the name Frederic Shoberl? Probably not.
He’s the guy who chose the title we now use to refer to Victor Hugo’s novel, which was originally titled Notre-Dame de Paris. Shoberl wasn’t the first translator (the first was the politically motivated William Hazlitt), but his version gets the credit for hitting the bestseller list in England in the 1830s. (Hazlitt’s title was: Notre-Dame: A Tale of the Ancien Regime. Yawn.)
More about the publication history of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame below.
But when I was learning about the 14 different translations, I also encountered some interesting adaptations.
There’s a version of Crime and Punishment written for English language learners, some online study guides, a children’s book, some out-of-print comics, a graphic novel, and even a manga version. See below for details.
There are three public-domain translations, two out-of-print translations, and six modern translations available.
1887 – Fredrick Whishaw
1913 – Constance Garnett
1915 – Eva Martin
1955 – David Magarshack
1965 – John W. Strahan
1980 – Henry Carlisle and Olga Andreyeva Carlisle (Signet)
1992 – Alan Myers (Oxford)
2002 – Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage/Everyman)
2003 – Constance Garnett revised by Anna Brailovsky (Modern Library)
2004 – David McDuff (Penguin)
2010 – Ignat Avsey (Alma)
Since I’ve now investigated five different Russian Classics in total, the translators’ names are somewhat familiar…
Garnett and Pevear and Volokhonsky translated all four of the others (War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov).
Magarshack did Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, and Brothers Karamazov, but not War and Peace.
McDuff did Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamazov.
Avsey did Brothers Karamazov.
Whishaw did Crime and Punishment.
Garnett’s translations, in their time, were groundbreaking; though some say they’re out of date, updated versions exist alongside the originals. Meanwhile, Pevear and Volokhonsky have taken the world by storm, leaving other recent translations standing in their shadow. Which one is really “best” depends on what you’re looking for, though.
For cover images, sample extracts for comparison, ISBNs, pagecounts, and links to relevant articles, visit We Love Translations: World Literature in English.