Louis Cha’s ac­claimed tril­ogy to be trans­lated into English

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By XING YI in Shang­hai xingyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

De­spite their pop­u­lar­ity, only three of Jin Yong’s martial arts nov­els have been trans­lated into English. But fans will soon get more from the writer as his most pop­u­lar tril­ogy, named after the first of the three books, Leg­ends of the Con­dor He­roes, is sched­uled to hit book­stores in Fe­bru­ary.

Jin Yong is the pen name of Louis Cha. And the au­thor, who lives in Hong Kong, is one of the best-sell­ing Chi­nese au­thors alive with over 300 mil­lion copies of his works sold in the Chi­nese-speak­ing world.

This lat­est trans­la­tion project is the most am­bi­tious with re­gard to Jin Yong’s works.

The tril­ogy, writ­ten by Jin Yong in the 1950s and ’60s, cov­ers the Song Dy­nasty (9601279) and the early Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644), and fea­tures hun­dreds of char­ac­ters.

The plot in­cludes be­trayal and al­le­giance among dif­fer­ent martial arts schools, and the rise and fall of dy­nas­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to the pub­lish­ing house, Ma­cle­hose Press, the trans­lated work will come in 12 vol­umes, in­clud­ing Leg­ends of the Con­dor He­roes; Di­vine Con­dor, Er­rant Knight; Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre.

Anna Holm­wood is the trans­la­tor of vol­ume one, A Hero Born.

Speak­ing of the project which she took up in 2012, Holm­wood, a self-em­ployed trans­la­tor fo­cus­ing on Chi­nese-English lit­er­ary trans­la­tions, says in an email in­ter­view: “It had to be Jin Yong then. It was the ob­vi­ous place to start, not only be­cause of the qual­ity of his writ­ing, but also be­cause of his stand­ing and rep­u­ta­tion in Asia.”

Holm­wood, who was born to a Bri­tish fa­ther and a Swedish mother, grew up in the United King­dom and stud­ied his­tory at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford.

Her love af­fair with China be­gan in 2005, when she spent two months trav­el­ing around the coun­try on a schol­ar­ship.

The trip aroused her cu­rios- ity about China, and she was de­ter­mined to learn Chi­nese.

“That was the only way to sat­isfy my cu­rios­ity about the coun­try,” she says.

Holm­wood then chose mod­ern Chi­nese stud­ies as her MPhil ma­jor at Ox­ford, and went to Tai­wan Nor­mal Univer­sity for a year of lan­guage train­ing in 2009.

In Tai­wan, a friend took Holm­wood to a book­shop, where she saw a whole shelf ded­i­cated to Jin Yong. She bought a copy of Jin Yong’s work — Lu Ding Ji (The Deer and the Caul­dron), the long­est of his nov­els.

“It (read­ing the book) was a strug­gle at first,” Holm­wood says, adding that this was be­cause Jin Yong’s nov­els are all set in an­cient China and the char­ac­ters span mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions.

But what is a big­ger chal­lenge for the trans­la­tor, Holm­wood says, is ren­der­ing the orig­i­nal pace and ex­cite­ment into English.

“It’s all about whether the English reader will be lured by the emo­tions and char­ac­ters.

“It’s vi­tal for the English ver­sion to read like an en­tic­ing work.”

It took five years for Holm­wood to fin­ish the trans­la­tion of the first vol­ume.

Paul En­gles, edi­tor of the book at Ma­cLe­hose Press, re­calls that when he re­ceived a sam­ple from Holm­wood at the end of 2012, he was in­stantly en­tranced by it and also amazed that the work had not been trans­lated be­fore.

“Jin Yong is one of the world’s best-sell­ing au­thors, and, rather like Alexan­dre Du­mas, he is a pop­u­lar au­thor who will in time (if not al­ready) be rec­og­nized as a writer of stone-cold clas­sics,” he adds.

“We feel that it is es­sen­tial that these nov­els be trans­lated into English,” En­gles says, adding that the plan is to pub­lish one vol­ume a year.

The sec­ond vol­ume is be­ing trans­lated by Gigi Chang, an art writer and trans­la­tor from Hong Kong.

Al­though Chang and Holm­wood work sep­a­rately, they dis­cuss com­mon is­sues and keep a shared data­base for terms ap­pear­ing in the tril­ogy.

As for why his works need to be trans­lated, one must read Holm­wood’s in­tro­duc­tion in vol­ume one, which says: “Many have con­sid­ered Jin Yong’s world too for­eign, too Chi­nese for an English-speak­ing read­er­ship. Im­pos­si­ble to trans­late.

“And yet this story of love, loy­alty, honor and the power of the in­di­vid­ual against suc­ces­sive cor­rupt govern­ments and in­vad­ing forces is as uni­ver­sal as any story could hope to be.

“The great­est loss that can oc­cur in trans­la­tion can only come from not trans­lat­ing it at all.”

It’s all about whether the English reader will be lured by the emo­tions and char­ac­ters.”

Anna Holm­wood,

Lu Lili con­tributed to this story.


The English trans­la­tion of Louis Cha’s martial arts tril­ogy will be pub­lished in Fe­bru­ary.

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