RAM Talk：Dong Botao: Translate It Even in Vain
May 27, 2017 Saturday 19:30 - 21:00
2F, Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai 20 Huqiu Road)
It is difficult to accurately translate into English the Chinese expressions in many works of the exhibition “Song Dong: I Don’t Know the Mandate of Heaven.” Some of them need extensive explanations of the cultural backgrounds, while some others feature unique tenses that can hardly be expressed in English. Song Dong smartly identified the changes of original messages in translation, and thus commissioned several friends of his and translation providers to offer different English versions of the single sentence “不做白不做，做了也白做，白做也得做,” meaning that doing it is better than ignoring it; doing it is no better than not doing so; despite it, one has to do it even in vain. Some sinologists or scholars of Chinese studies hold the bias of cultural relativism and argue that Chinese writings are untranslatable. However, recognizing the difficulties in translation, maybe we should not completely deny the possibility of translation. As Antoine Berman put it, “The very aim of translation – to open up in writing a certain relation with the Other, to fertilize what is one’s Own through the meditation of what is Foreign – is diametrically opposed to the ethnocentric structure of every culture, that species of narcissism by which every society wants to be a pure and unadulterated Whole.” Perhaps translation is not only a means of communication, but an art of expressing emotions and sentiments. Because of the fun and meanings, translating it is better than ignoring it; because of the difficulties, sometimes translating it is no better than not translating so; and because of our passion and responsibilities, one has to translate it even in vain.... Read More
Dong Botao, holding a PhD in Classical Chinese Literature from Fudan University, is a publisher, cultural scholar, and academic advisor of the Wonderland Translation Workshop, and has been practicing the concept of “Plain Living and High Thinking”.
Free admission, reservation is required.