Today we take a break from showcasing Chinese literature to feature the epilogue from the Chinese translation of Philip K. Dick's well-known short novel, A Scanner Darkly. As fans of PKD, we found the full translations to a number of his books buried in the foreign literature section of the Xinhua bookstore at Xidan and thought it might be worthwhile highlighting a passage as an example of a fairly straightforward English to Chinese translation.

On a related note, reading foreign literature in translation is an excellent strategy for making rapid progress towards communicative fluency, partly because Chinese translators tend to render complex phrasings into more commonplace expressions, and partly because native works often embrace obscurity in service to literary style. For someone working to master functional Chinese, reading foreign books in translation can be a good strategy for accelerating your exposure to the most high-frequency language you can really use: you'll spend less time consulting the dictionary and perhaps enjoying the writing more as well.
 said on
March 6, 2012
Can you suggest a few pieces of foreign literature in translation? I would love to give your suggestion a shot and see how my Chinese is stacking up? Cheers, Ryan
 said on
March 7, 2012

Everything comes and goes out of print, so I'd suggest just heading to the biggest Xinhua bookstore near you and looking in the foreign literature section. Good books can have awful translations and vice versa so there is no guarantee. If you're interested in reading PKD, I thought the Chinese translation of The Man in the High Castle was the best of the bunch.

 said on
May 8, 2012
I think there might be a few pinyin discrepancies in the lesson:

当 – shouldn’t this be dang1 not dang4? E.g. 当我在写这部小说时。。。

奉献 – this is annotated as feng4xie4, shouldn't it be feng4xian4?

年复一年 – 复 is annotated as xia4 instead of fu4

罪恶 – has something strange going on . It’s displaying as zui4%apos;e4

宿命论 - 论 is annotated as lun2, shouldn't it be lun4?

In this line 他们不该去玩火而该辛苦地为生计劳作 - 辛苦 is annotated as qin1ku3 - I think it should be xing4ku3

Also in this line 而幸福却只剩了下回忆, the recording actually says 而幸福却只剩下了回忆 so 剩 and 下 are switched in the text or in the recording.

 said on
May 9, 2012


 said on
May 9, 2012
@ Echo,

My pleasure because ONLY the premium subscribers get to find this stuff :-) ha ha. I just love that intro on some of the lessons. "1 out of every 5 lessons contains something horribly incorrect and offensive... but only the premium subscribers get to know which one"

So questions for David, right after that line there is a guy that sounds a little out of breath and says "you know it... wait, what did you say" Where does that come from? I'm guessing a movie maybe.

Also the one... "Tired of your current Chinese teacher?.....oh, you little b&*ch troll from hell"

And another one is the "I spent like probably 3 and half hours making mayonnaise and all the ac-cou-ter-ment"

Where are these from? They are absolutely hilarious!

 said on
October 9, 2013
Wow wow wow this epilogue is ...making me wish I was a 60s child
 said on
January 13, 2016
I appreciate your advice about reading foreign literature in translation. Good tip (and true from my experience learning Spanish). Looked online for Xinhua bookstore and to my amazement there's one in San Diego, where I live! What are the odds?