Best translation – Shanghai event

In June 2014, we ran a series of collaborative translation events in China and in the UK. Our events invite small bilingual groups to translate a text English to Chinese or Chinese to English, and are organised on a competitive basis, with two kinds of prizes – one for speed, and one for quality. We announce a winner for the most characters translated on the spot, but quality takes more time to judge.

Our Shanghai event was very special for two reasons. One, we partnered with United Verses, and translated poetry – including micro-poems by Kate Larsen. Second, we partnered with Fudan High School, and some of our translators were teenagers from their International Baccalaureate stream. This is the case of our winning team – Edwin, Erika and Blair -selected for their translation of a poem by Yisha, which we will publish here in its entirety. We wish to particularly underline the apt translation of ‘降龙十八掌’ as ‘eighteen dragon fist’ – and remember fondly the discussions and gestures that accompanied the explanation of this Kung-Fu position.

三个死囚 / 被反剪双手 / 跪在战壕中 / 等待行刑 / 蒙面刽子手 / 立在其对面 / 马步蹲裆 / 运足了气 / 大喝一声 / 忽然使出 / 降龙十八掌 / 三个死囚 / 三声惨叫 / 呜呼哀哉 / 当场毙命 / 变成了 / 三股青烟 / 直上云天

我就在现场 / 目击到这一幕 / 作为一名神甫 / 为死囚的灵魂 / 祈祷 / 并聆听他们的 / 忏悔 / 此刻 / 我安慰下一组 / 将要受刑的一位毒死 / 对其长年施暴的丈夫 / 留下一个儿子的女囚道:/ “忏悔吧 / 你会重生 / 投胎转世 / 与你儿子重逢”

“拉倒吧 / 下辈子谁知道 / 投胎成啥玩意” / 刀条脸

Three of the condemned
With their hands bound
Kneeling in a trench
Awaited execution

The hooded executioner
Standing in front of them
Going into the horse stance
Breathed deeply
And cried out
Suddenly striking out with
His Eighteen-Dragon Fist

Three of the condemned
Three great shrieks
Oh, the pain
Killed instantly
Becoming three puffs of smoke
Floating up to the sky

I was there
And witnessed the scene
As a priest
For the souls of the condemned
And hearing their
At this moment
I was comforting the next prisoner
A female prisoner who would receive punishment
For poisoning her husband
Who had abused her for many years
Leaving her son alone
And you will be born to new life,
You will live again in the next world,
You will meet your son again.”

“Save it,
Who knows about the next life,
And what you will become.”
The female prisoner with high cheekbones
Said indifferently
But then became full of longing
And said, “If there really were a life after this,
I want to be a cricket,
And be trapped by my son……”

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