Luedi Kong givesMon­key King epic the Ger­man treat­ment

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By MEI JIA in Frank­furt, Ger­many

Swiss-born Eva Luedi Kong ap­peared with a glass bot­tle of Chi­ne­se­wolf­berry tea at her­book­launch at the Frank­furt Book Fair in late Oc­to­ber.

The first to ren­der the com­plete text of Chi­nese lit­er­ary clas­sic Jour­ney to the West into Ger­man, Luedi Kong has just com­pleted her jour­ney of bring­ing theMon­keyKing­toaw­ider au­di­ence in theWest, in an ad­ven­ture span­ning 16 years.

“The book is a won­der­ful ex­am­ple and am­bas­sador of Chi­nese cul­ture,” she says.

“This is be­cause be­sides tai chi ex­po­nents and believ­ers in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, there are not manypeo­pleintheGer­man-speak­ing world who know any­thing about the novel.”

De­signer Remo Al­banesi was one of those who bought a copy of the book shortly af­ter the launch.

Al­banesi says he has a rel­a­tive who is of Chi­nese de­scent and so he is in­ter­ested in learn­ing about Chi­nese clas­sics.

“Many young peo­ple here know about the Dragon Ball, but noth­ing about this novel,” he says, re­fer­ring to the Ja­panese car­toon in­spired by Sun Wukong, or theMon­key King.

Be­fore Luedi Kong, there were pic­ture books and se­lected trans­la­tions. But her work is based on the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) ver­sion of the book, pub­lished by the Zhonghua Book Com­pany.

When she started work­ing on the pro­ject— and had trans­lated the first 60 chap­ters of the 100 in the text — she did not have a con­tract with a pub­lisher.

“It might not have been wise of me to do that, but I think it was fi­nally worth the ef­fort. The book un­folded a grand and pro­found world to me. It kind of re­shaped me, too. And I just wanted to share that splen­dor with oth­erGer­man read­ers,” she says.

Di­eterMeier, editor at her pub­lisher Reclam, says that he did not hes­i­tate when Luedi Kong con­tacted them.

“I like this book very much and I was­first in­tro­duced to itwhen­watch­ing the an­i­mated film Up­roar in Heaven in Stuttgart many years ago. This sparked my in­ter­est in clas­si­cal Chi­nese nov­els, and when liv­ing in Shang­hai for six months in 2000, I read a French trans­la­tion of Out­laws of the Marsh, which fur­thered my in­ter­est,” saysMeier.

Known for its “uni­ver­sal li­brary” series, Reclam has pack­aged the Chi­nese story with a “pop­u­larand­pic­turesque” bookde­sign­with­SunWukong and Chi­nese char­ac­ters on the bright yel­low cover.

The book also fea­tures il­lus­tra­tions restored by ZhangXiaofeng, a pro­fes­sor of wood­cut paint­ings at theChina Academy of Art in­Hangzhou, in Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

“I think pub­lish­ing this trans­la­tion could be a mile­stone for clas­si­cal Chi­nese fic­tion in Ger­man-speak­ing coun­tries,” saysMeier, adding that he is con­tact­ing trans­la­tors Chi­nese books.

Meier says Luedi Kong is an ex­cel­lent trans­la­tor and he knows how long and tough the jour­ney was for her to trans­late typ­i­cal Chi­nese thoughts and ide­ol­ogy, blended with Buddhism and Tao­ism, into a Ger­man­con­text.

Born in 1968, Luedi Kong stud­ied Si­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Zurich. Then, in 1990, she moved to Hangzhou, where she at­tended the China Academy ofArt.

Later, she was a lec­turer at both the academy and Zhe­jiang Univer­sity, and a free­lance trans­la­tor.

Her pre­vi­ous bookTypo China, isa poster col­lec­tion she worked on with the ZurichMu­seum of De­sign.

Be­fore she be­gan to work on her lat­est book, she got her­self a mas­ter’s de­gree in clas­sic Chi­nese literature from Zhe­jiang Univer­sity. “And to re­fine my Ger­man writ­ing, when I was trans­lat­ing, I stud­ied 18th and 19th cen­tu­ryGer­man­lit­er­a­ture at the same time, and got great help with my po­etic rhetoric from Goethe’s writ­ing,” she says.

“The­most­d­if­fi­cult part­comeswith first theBud­dhistre­f­er­ence­sandthen Taoist thoughts. I felt obliged to un­der­stand them be­fore I be­gan trans­lat­ing, so I read, re­searched and for other met rel­e­vant ex­perts, and even went to see monks,” she says.

“The no­tions and con­cepts have to be clearly ex­plained and trans­lated, not avoided, or worse, deleted or omit­ted, sim­ply­be­causethe­yare dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand,” she says.

LuediKong­be­lieves that a trans­la­tor should have real in­ter­est in the work be­ing trans­lated, be­cause “then it is eas­ier and more fun in over­com­ing the ob­sta­cles”.

She re­cently re­turned to Switzer­land with fam­ily, and gives lec­tur­ers on tra­di­tional Chi­nese think­ing.

Mean­while, Meier says that new Ger­man ver­sions of Ro­mance of the Three King­doms and Out­laws of the Marsh are to be pub­lished soon.

Eva Sch­estag, who was at Luedi Kong’s book launch at Frank­furt, is work­ing on the first com­plete Ger­man ver­sion of Three King­doms since 2011.

Speak­ing about her work, Luedi Kong says: “Peo­ple nowa­days are root­less. The Chi­nese clas­sics of­fer chances to ex­am­ine and talk with one’s in­ner self, which ben­e­fited me a lot.

“The­jour­ney west­can­be­tak­e­nas a men­tal pil­grim­age, in which things deep down grad­u­ally get re­leased, which gives the novel con­tem­po­rary rel­e­vance.”


Eva Luedi Kong has launched her Ger­man ver­sion of Jour­ney­totheWest. The book also fea­tures il­lus­tra­tions restored by Zhang Xiaofeng, a pro­fes­sor of wood­cut paint­ings at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.

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