Posted by Joel Martinsen on Monday, November 23, 2009 at 7:10 PM
A recent photo of Yang Xianyi (People's Daily)
Sina, citing a microblogger and a publishing industry editor, reports that well-known translator Yang Xianyi (杨宪益) has passed away at the age of 94.
Yang was born in Tianjin in 1915. He went abroad to study at Oxford, where he met his wife Gladys, with whom he later translated classic works of Chinese literature for the Foreign Languages Press.
Their translations included Selected Works of Lu Xun and a complete English version of A Dream of Red Mansions, which the two began in the early sixties and finished in the following decade after a spell in prison during the Cultural Revolution.
Yang published his autobiography in English as White Tiger.
Southern People Weekly spoke to Yang this year and published a lengthy profile and short interview in the August 3 issue. An excerpt concerning his philosophy of translation:
The profile explained his encounter with Mao over Qu Yuan's famous poem:
Yang believed the poem was a fake and approached it in that spirit. David Hawkes, a friend of Yang's who did his own translation of the Li Sao (as well as another complete edition of Red Mansions, as The Story of The Stone, with John Minford), made the comment that the resulting translation "bears as much resemblance to the original as a chocolate Easter egg to an omelette," an observation that amused Yang.
Update (2009.11.25): Read John Gitting's obituary at The Guardian.
Additionally, a number of bloggers have noted a passage that was deleted from Yang's autobiography for the mainland Chinese edition:
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Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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