I read somewhere or other online that Kerson Huang (黄克孙), better known as a physicist (and translator/commentator on the Yijing) had translated, while an undergraduate, Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam into classical-style 七绝 qijue (seven-character regulated verse in end-stopped lines). His translation was apparently highly praised by Qian Zhongshu, himself no slouch when it came to polyglot literature.
I looked around online and found a few excerpts from the translation (which is/was published in Taiwan under the title 鲁拜集), but no complete text, and no stores carrying the book. I remember being really disappointed by Guo Moruo’s translation of (Fitzgerald’s translation of) the Rubaiyat a few years ago; Huang’s translation is something else entirely. (I’ve been disappointed by almost all of the English->Chinese poetry translation I’ve seen, actually, but that’s a post for another day.) Check this out:
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Guo Moruo’s translation:
Kerson Huang’s translation:
Can anybody think of any place – preferably in Beijing or online – that would be likely to carry this translation? It’s not listed on Dangdang, Joyo, or the pan-Chinese Yesasia, so I suspect that it may be either out of print or just plain rare. My boss suggested that 三联 might have it, as they generally have a fair number of Taiwanese books in stock, but I haven’t yet had the chance to go by and look.
UPDATE 8/9: Thanks to Matt for posting the ISBN number. I’ve ordered the book from 三民網絡書店 online, and with any luck it should arrive in a week or so. Cool thing about Sanmin’s online ordering process: if you live in Taiwan, instead of getting the book(s) delivered to your home or office, you can get them delivered to the nearest convenience store and then go and pick them up at your leisure. I submit that this is awesome.
Unfortunately, it’s only an option for 臺胞, so I can’t test it out myself, but what an awesomely awesome idea.
UPDATE 8/13: The book arrived on Friday morning, which was pretty awesome itself. I’m really enjoying the translations, which are extremely free, often to the point of not really being recognizable. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you – Fitzgerald’s poems don’t bear a whole lot of relation to the original Persian, after all. I was thinking that it might be fun to play translator ping-pong: get a few poetically minded translators together, hand them randomly selected snippets from Huang’s translated Rubaiyat, and have them translate the translations into rhyming English verse – then get Chinese friends to do the same in the opposite direction. Would anybody be up for this?
Oh – and here are some of Huang’s translations.
You know, my friends, with what a great carouse
I made a second marriage in my house.
Divorc’d old barren Reason from my bed,
And took the daughter of the vine to spouse.
For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line,
And “Up-and-down” with Logic I define,
Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but — Wine.
Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain – This life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The flower that once has blown forever dies.
The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.