Jin Yong invades heritage museum in Hong Kong

Image result for jin yong exhibition heritage museum

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The martial arts fiction author known by every Chinese person across the world, Jin Yong, is in the Heritage Museum in Tai Wai right now, a museum that is about half an hour down the road from my flat.

If you don’t know this guy, it’s not surprising. Only a few of his novels have been translated into English, though I saw at the exhibition some Spanish + French extracts of his work, so maybe French and Spanish people know about him.

It’s weird, one of the translated novels I read [The Book and the Sword] lost about 750 pages in the move from Chinese to English, and the only reason I can get from anyone for this loss is that Jin Yong’s work is very dense in terms of history and kung fu methodology.

i.e. just like Chinese food in the UK, they tried to adapt it for the market they were translating into, instead of keeping the parts that made it unique in the first place and trusting that people would still be able to follow despite not knowing any of the names. Or trusting them to look those names up. Strange plan overall, as I would’ve thought most people bothering to chase down translations would be doing it to read something different, not something that’s been altered to try and cater for their own culture.

People in HK seem okay with this as they believe Western people would be lost when reading Jin Yong. I asked them if they’d ever seen a Robin Hood film. Or a film about Ancient Egypt. Or Throne of Blood. Did they feel lost watching them? Continue reading

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The Book + the Sword // Jin Yong

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Jin Yong is my wife’s favourite writer and probably the best known guy writing Chinese martial arts in the whole world.

Though most people in the west don’t know him.

I don’t know the reason, but not many of his books have been translated into English. My wife told me it’s hard to translate from Chinese to English as the traditional Chinese characters used often have a meaning that can’t be translated well. Also, there probably aren’t many western writers, apart from academics, who are at a high enough standard in Chinese writing to give it a crack.

Maybe the American-Chinese guy who did ‘The 3 Body Problem’ could give it a crack sometime?

Anyway, what my wife said could be true in this case, as the translation I read was quite simple in its style, word choice and sentence structure. And a lot of the story was just plot, plot, plot, which made me wonder if a lot of the deeper, between the lines stuff had been lost along the way.

And when I say ‘a lot’ I mean:

The Chinese version of ‘The Book and the Sword’ is about 1,000 pages

The English version is around 500 pages.

500 pages worth of story was lost?

I don’t know,

but,

although there were a lot of characters to keep track of and the story was quite melodramatic in a lot of ways, there were aspects of it that I thought were great.

Kung Fu strategy

The way Jin Yong describes the action is decent, but the parts that really stood out were the parts in-between where the characters or the narrator would delineate the style that was being used and the strategy behind it

E.g. the one third attack Continue reading

The eternal battle [Me vs Cantonese]

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This isn’t horror or sci fi but

I’ve always been interested in languages and

the idea of including them in sci fi/horror more often, mostly cos I’ve rarely seen them done well

e.g. most characters are like Hoshi or Uhura from New Star Trek who are already fluent, which to me takes the interesting part out of it, as if you really wanted to write a decent horror story about a vampire and that vampire is from Hungary then wouldn’t it be creepier if that vampire didn’t speak English

but some kind of old Hungarian

and if the characters are visiting a village in Hungary then what better way to isolate them than having all the villagers speak only Hungarian

no English speakers at all.

Why don’t many films try this?

Why set a sci-fi horror movie in Russia if you’re gonna have all your Russian characters speaking English, even to each other?

It makes no sense.

The Devil called Cantonese

For the last two years I’ve had one Cantonese lesson a week and that’s it.

One lesson about 90 minutes long, nothing else, except sometimes when my adrenaline’s up I’ll watch old HK movies on youtube and ask my wife, what did he say, what did she say, what did they say, over and over until she gives up and finds a version with subtitles. Continue reading