Barrelled Thoughts #51 – Reader’s Block

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What’s the longest time you’ve gone without reading? And which book do you have to thank for finally breaking that dry spell?

I’m a moderate reader. That is to say, compared to avid readers who can finish a book a week and the book-shy folks who only read when it appears as an absolute last resort, I read an average amount of books in an average amount of time—if, at all, anything can be considered average.

The appeal for reading hit me at a very late age. The earliest books I read came in primary school and later in high school. They were, for lack of a better word, forced upon us during English class. And rightly so, because without parents who instilled the joys of casual reading into me, exposure at school was my only saving grace.

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Daoists of Mt. Lao Pt. 1 – Wesley Holzer [EN]

Submitted Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Translator’s note: This story is retold faithfully, leaving out no details from Pu Songling (蒲松齡)’s original. But unlike the myriad translators who have come before me, I have elected to forgo the inevitably ill-fated strategy of maintaining the original author’s ingenious structure and infallible flow in Chinese. For scholarly pursuit, such a translation is understandable – perhaps commendable – but it does not make for good reading. Stubbornly trying to render the linguistic conventions of 18th century Classical Chinese into modern day English is the main reason that more than 150 years of translations of Liaozhai Zhiyi read almost identical to one another: all very academic. My aim is, instead, to give you something worth flipping through while relaxing on the couch, sitting on the train, or (heaven forbid) wasting away in the office.

“The Daoists of Mt. Lao” (勞山道士) is one of the most enduring tales from the 18th century masterpiece Tales of the Strange from Liaozhai (聊齋誌異) for its moral of humility and patience. A well-off young man heads to the mountain to learn the mystic arts of the immortals, bust struggles when reality at first falls short of his expectations. This is the first of a two-part translation of the story. – W. Holzer

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