董鼎山《美国编辑的基本常识》 -经典散文英译-中英双语赏析

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美国编辑的基本常识(1)

董鼎山

《纽约时报》一位编辑日前来了电话,叫我将一篇文章中的“延安窑洞”(The Yanan caves)一词解释一下。这个电话立时引起我一阵感慨:美国编辑的年轻(及其对时事历史知识的简陋)反映了我自己的老年。

我的文中所讨论的是市上一本新出版的埃德加·斯诺传记。我曾指出,斯诺的《西行漫记》在1938年出版时,曾驱动了无数理想主义的(2)知识青年前往“延安窑洞朝圣”(Make pilgrimages to the Yanan caves),帮助了毛泽东革命的成功。

那位青年编辑的不解此词用意,令我憾惜那份大报资深老编辑的逐一消逝(3)。

美国新一代编辑对中国现代史的生疏并不是近年来的事。

十年之前,我替该报专论版(OP-ED page)写了一篇有关我初返祖国的经历。编辑打电话来问我文中“法租界”(French Concession)一词是什么意思。我的解释不能说服他的犹疑(4)。他说读者不会了解(5),为了安全起见,他要把“法租界”(6)改为“法侨区”(French Quarter(7)),我勉强的同意。

又有一次,该报书评周刊一篇讨论海伦·福斯特·斯诺的《我在中国的年头》的书评中把张学良称呼为“共党少帅”(The Communist Young Marshal)。张学良怎是共产党?

我去信更正。他们把我的更正信发表。该报的认真态度是名闻世界的,但是编辑的缺乏常识是不是我们所可谅解?

美国一般报刊当事者对中国情况(即使是现在,到处多的是“中国通”)的无知是相当普遍的,例如他们常把中国人的姓氏名字前后倒置,至于电视新闻广播员更是缺乏时事修养,不只一次,我听到他们把“中华人民共和国”与“中华民国”混为一谈。

当然,1949年以后出生的人现在也有四十岁了(8)。有的则根本不能体会上海在解放前的情况。

有一个杂志编辑与我争论“外滩”一词的英文字。他不解我为何要用Bund(他说Bund对他而言,是战前美国一个仿德国纳粹团体的取名)。殊不知英国经商者早已在印度殖民地用了这个字,后来用在上海的外滩,意谓“沿着江海的河堤”。

这位编辑终把Bund改为Waterfront,把我所要想形容的昔年上海繁华的外滩,一改而予人以冷落零乱印象的“码头”,完全失却了原意。

凡此种种,只不过表明新闻界也是后浪推前浪,老的退休,新的当家。在此情形下,我们这些上了年纪的撰稿者好似失去了知音(9)。

Ill-Informed US Newsmen

Dong Dingshan

The other day,an editor of The New York Times called me to inquire about“the Yan’an caves”,a phrase he had come across in one of my articles.It struck me immediately,for the young American editor with his ignorance of current affairs and historical events was a reflection of my own old age.

The article I had written was about a recently published biography of Edgar Snow[1].I pointed out therein that Snow’s Red Star over China,published in 1938,served to spur innumerable aspiring young Chinese intellectuals to make pilgrimages to the Yan’an caves,thus contributing to the success of the Chinese revolution.

The young American editor’s failure to understand the said phrase made me lament the fading out of elderly senior members on the editorial staff of the renowned newspaper.

That the new generation of American newsmen are unfamiliar with modern Chinese history is by no means something new.

Ten years ago,after I sent in an article for the OP-ED page of The New York Times recounting experiences of my first visit to my motherland,the editor phoned me to ask about the meaning of“the French Concession”.My explanation,however,failed to bring him round.He said readers had difficulty understanding it and therefore suggested,for safety’s sake,“the French Quarter”as a substitute for“the French Concession”.I agreed,but with reluctance.

Another time,in the newspaper’s weekly book review,an article on Helen Foster Snow’s[2] My China Years addressed Zhang Xueliang[3] as“Communist Young Marshal.”How could he be a Communist?

So I wrote them to rectify the mistake and they had my letter published.The New York Times is world-famous for its conscientiousness,but a lack of general knowledge on the part of its editors is nevertheless unpardonable.

Those in charge of the American press are often found ignorant of things in China although the country is said to abound in“China hands”.For instance,they often don’t know how to put Chinese surnames and given names in the right order.TV news broadcasters are even more ill-informed about the current affairs.I’ve more than once found them mix up“the People’s Republic of China”with“the Republic of China”.

US editors born after 1949,the year when the People’s Republic of China was founded,are now in their forties.Some of them have little knowledge of what Shanghai was like in China’s pre-liberation days.

One American editor got into a heated argument with me about the English equivalent of Waitan[4] in Shanghai.He wondered why I should insist on using the word“Bund”,saying that as far as he knew,it referred exclusively to a pro-Nazi organization in the pre-war US.He didn’t know that the word,first used by British merchants in India during its colonial days to mean“an embanked road along a waterfront”,was later also used to refer to Waitan in Shanghai.

He finally chose“the Waterfront”in preference to“the Bund”,which was a misrepresentation giving the picture of a desolate and messy dock instead of the erstwhile thriving Shanghai Bund as I had intended to describe.

Evidently the young have replaced the old to play a leading role in the US press,and ageing newspaper contributors like me seem to have lost,much to our regret,our understanding friends.

[1] Edgar Snow(1905-1972),US journalist and writer known for his book Red Star over China.

[2] Helen Foster Snow(1907-1997),better known by her journalistic pen-name Nym Wales,was the former wife of Edgar Snow.She moved from Utah to China in her twenties to become an author and journalist.

[3] Zhang Xueliang(1901-2001),a native of Haicheng,Liaoning Province,was a patriotic Nationalist general well known as“the Young Marshal”because he was the eldest son of“Old Marshal Zhang Zuolin”,former warlord in Northeast China.In the Xi’an Incident of December 12,1936,he and Yang Hucheng,also a patriotic Nationalist general,ordered their troops to kidnap and imprison KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek(1887-1975)until he agreed to stop the civil war against the Communists and fight against the Japanese.

[4] Waitan,known as the Bund in English,is a stately street and important landmark of Shanghai located along the Huangpu River.

董鼎山(1922— ),浙江宁波人,1945年毕业于上海圣约翰大学,1947年赴美,获密苏里大学新闻学硕士学位,曾任报刊编辑、纽约市立大学教授,为著名美籍华裔作家。《美国编辑的基本常识》是他写于1989年4月的一篇随笔,选自他的散文集《温馨上海 悲情纽约》(2002年5月由上海辞书出版社出版)。

注释

(1) 题目“美国编辑的基本常识”可译为US Editors Lacking in General Knowledge,但不如Ill-Informed US Newsmen简练、确切婉转,其中Ill-Informed的意思是“不了解情况的”。

(2)“理想主义的”意即“渴望崇高目标的”、“有理想的”,译为aspiring。

(3)“……令我憾惜那份大报资深编辑的逐一逍逝”译为…make me lament the fading out of elderly senior members on the editorial staff of the renowned newspaper,其中fading out作“逐渐离去”解,含有“逐一”的意思,不必另在前面加gradual等。又“大报纸”可按“知名报纸”、“有声望的报纸”译为renowned newspaper,或按“主要报纸”译为major newspaper。

(4)“我的解释不能说服他的犹疑”译为My explanation,however,failed to bring him round,其中to bring…round作“说服”解,是习语。

(5)“他说读者不会了解”译为He said readers had difficulty understanding it,在difficulty后面也可加介词in。

(6)“法租界”英语称为the French Concession,其中Concession指从前列强强迫旧中国在通商都市内“租借”给他们作进一步侵略的据点。

(7)Quarter作“地区”解,因此the French Quarter的意思是“法国人居住区”。

(8)“1949年以后出生的人现在也有四十岁了”译为US editors born after 1949,the year when the People’s Republic of China was founded,are now in their forties,其中the year when the People’s Republic of China was founded是增益成分,以便和后面“上海在解放前”相配合。

(9)“……我们这些上了年纪的撰稿者好似失去了知音”译为…and ageing newspaper contributors like me seem to have lost,much to our regret,our understanding friends,其中much to our regret也是增益成分,意即“非常遗憾”,原文虽无其词而有其意。

“知音”译为understanding friends,其中understanding的意思是“有识别力的”,也可译为friends who knew our worth,但含义不尽确切。

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