Life Begins at 80
◎ Bing Xin
October 29, 1980
Dear Little Friends,
Every day I lie facing a lovely picture from my sickbed — the picture of a smiling little child wearing a doudu and carrying two big red peaches on the shoulder. It bears the inscriptions“On the 80th birthday of Comrade Bing Xin”and“With best wishes from the Children’s Literature, October 1980”on the margin and at the bottom, respectively.
Every morning, when I wake up, it gives me great joy and encouragement to see the picture in the bright sunshine. But the birthday gift hasn’t brought me to realize that I am already 80 years old!
Since I fell ill, many old friends have written to express their sympathy for me and meanwhile warn me never again to work so hard without regard for my old age. So, in reply to a friend’s letter, I said,“While Confucius refers to himself as often being ‘unaware of approaching old age’, I am, however, unaware that I am already old!”
For this unawareness, I owe a debt of gratitude to millions upon millions of my little readers! It is about 60 years since I began at the age of 23 to write intermittently Letters to Little Readers. The warm response expressed by many of my little friends after reading my letters has given me a perpetual feeling of being young!
During my illness, the editorial department of the China Juvenile Daily sent me flowers and took my picture. I also received many letters of sympathy from my friends and readers, whose good wishes inspired me with confidence in my speedy recovery. My illness started with cerebral thrombosis, and later I suffered a fracture in my right hipbone. As a result, I had difficulty getting around and writing by hand. You can imagine how it took me almost half an hour to finish writing this short note of only a few hundred words! As a Western saying goes,“Life begins at 40.”I hope that, starting from 1981, I’ll be able to try my hand at writing and moving around after my recovery. Life begins at 80. Let me strive to forge ahead with all my little friends!
With every good wish,
Bing Xin, your loving friend
The title is a sentence quoted from the following letter written by Bing Xin in lieu of the preface to Vol. 3 of her Letters to Little Readers.
A diamond-shaped undergarment, worn usually by a child in China, covering the chest and abdomen, with bands going around the neck and waist.
“但是‘八十’这两个字，总不能使我相信我竟然已经八十岁了！”译为But the birthday gift hasn’t brought me to realize that I am already 80 years old!，其中hasn’t brought me to realize that …作“使我明白……”解，意同hasn’t made me conscious that …。
“又是责难，说：‘你以后千万不能再不服老了！’”可按“又是劝我勿再不顾年老而拼命”译为and meanwhile warn me never again to work so hard without regard for my old age；也可译为and meanwhile blame me for overworking myself and refusing to admit that I am old。
“自从我二十三岁起写《寄小读者》以来，断断续续地写了将近六十年”译为It is about 60 years since I began at the age of 23 to write intermittently Letters to Little Readers，其中“断断续续”可译为intermittently或off and on。
“这些信的祝福都使我相信我会很快康复起来”可按“他们的祝福激起我早日康复的信心”译为whose good wishes inspired me with confidence in my speedy recovery，比whose blessing made me believe in my early recovery更具表达力。
“脑血栓”译为cerebral thrombosis，也可译为a stroke，虽较通俗，但欠精确，因a stroke（中风）兼指“脑血栓”和“脑溢血”。
“写这几百字几乎用了半个小时”本可译为It took me almost half an hour to finish writing this short letter of a few hundred words!，现译为You can imagine how it took me almost half an hour to finish writing this short note of only a few hundred words! 或 Just imagine me taking almost half an hour to finish writing this short letter of only a few hundred words!，其中You can imagine how和Just imagine均为译文中的增益词，用以加强原意。