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Say It Right Series

王小波 -《黄金时代》Wang Xiaobo - The Golden Age (1)

Posted by bokane December 19, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

王小波 Wáng Xiǎobō was one of the most influential writers to come out of the 1990s in China. A voracious reader, Wang developed a writing style - and at times a worldview - reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut or Murakami Haruki. He died of heart failure at a young age in 1997, but left behind several novels, of which the current work, 黄金时代 Huángjīn Shídài, was his favorite.

Here's the beginning of chapter one of that novella, along with some vocabulary notes that will hopefully prove helpful. This is one of my favorite works of modern fiction, and I hope that everybody else will enjoy working through this as much as I enjoyed reading it!

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about the reading!


  我二十一岁时,正在云南插队。陈清扬当时二十六岁,就在我插队的地方当医生。我在山下十四队,她在山上十五队。有一天她从山上下来,和我讨论她不是破鞋的问题。那时我还不大认识她,只能说有一点知道。她要讨论的事是这样的:虽然所有的人都说她是一个破鞋,但她以为自己不是的。因为破鞋偷汉,而她没有偷过汉。虽然她丈夫已经住了一年监狱,但她没有偷过汉。在此之前也未偷过汉。所以她简直不明白,人们为什么要说她是破鞋。如果我要安慰她,并不困难。我可以从逻辑上证明她不是破鞋。如果陈清扬是破鞋,即陈清扬偷汉,则起码有一个某人为其所偷。如今不能指出某人,所以陈清扬偷汉不能成立。但是我偏说,陈清扬就是破鞋,而且这一点毋庸置疑。

Chinese

Pinyin

English

插队 chāduì Generally used of the Cultural Revolution; to join a production brigade, to be rusticated, or to otherwise be sent to the countryside.
破鞋 pòxié “Broken shoes” -- an offensive term for a women who has “been tried on too many times.” If you must use this one, do so carefully.
不大 bú dà Like 不太, but more colloquial.
偷汉 tōuhàn A slang term, somewhat dated, used to refer to a woman who “steals” another woman’s husband or boyfriend.
简直 jiǎnzhí “Simply.”
逻辑 luóji “Logic.” A phonetic loanword.
从逻辑上证明 cóng luóji shàng zhèngmíng “Prove by logic.”
“That is,” “i.e.” Here and below with 则, Wang is having fun by using very formal, pompous-sounding language.
如果陈清扬是破鞋,即陈清扬偷汉   “If Chen Qingyang were a slut, id est a stealer of men.”
Therefore; thus. Like 即, it is a more formal word used primarily in written language.
起码 qǐmǎ “At least.” Similar to 至少 but more colloquial. Also used as a noun meaning “a minimum.”
某, 某人 mǒu, mǒurén “A certain,” “A certain person.” Example: 王某 “A certain [Mr.] Wang.” Also 某某人: “So-and-so,” “Who’shisname,” etc.
为其所偷 wéi qí suǒ tōu This is a formal construction used in writing and derived from classical Chinese. 为 here is functioning like 被 would in ordinary modern Mandarin -- as a passive marker. 其 is acting as a pronoun -- in this case, as a stand-in for Chen Qingyang. 所 is acting the way it often does in classical Chinese -- as something that turns whatever verb comes after it into a noun. 所偷 therefore is “what [was/is] stolen.” Taken as a whole, these four characters 为其所偷 mean “who was stolen by her,” like 被他偷的东西 in modern spoken Mandarin.
成立 chénglì Usually this means “to establish.” Here, as applied to a logical argument, it means “stand up” or “hold together.”
piān Something like “stubbornly.” As a general rule of thumb, whatever verb comes after 偏 (sometimes 偏偏) is not what had been wanted.
毋庸置疑 wúyōngzhìyí A fixed expression: there need be no doubt.



  陈清扬找我证明她不是破鞋,起因是我找她打针。这事经过如下:农忙时队长不叫我犁田,而是叫我去插秧,这样我的腰就不能经常直立。认识我的人都知道,我的腰上有旧伤,而且我身高在一米九以上。如此插了一个月,我腰痛难忍,不打封闭就不能入睡。我们队医务室那一把针头镀层剥落,而且都有倒钩,经常把我腰上的肉钩下来。后来我的腰就像中了霰弹枪,伤痕久久不褪。就在这种情况下,我想起十五队的队医陈清扬是北京医学院毕业的大夫,对针头和勾针大概还能分清,所以我去找她看病。看完病回来,不到半个小时,她就追到我屋里来,要我证明她不是破鞋。



Chinese

Pinyin

English

打针 dǎzhēn Give or get a shot
农忙 nóngmáng The busy season in farming
犁田 lítián Plowing fields
插秧 chāyāng Planting rice seedlings
旧伤 jiùshāng An old injury
打封闭 dǎ fēngbì Get a shot to temporarily relieve pain or symptoms.
Plating or cladding
剥落 bōluò To flake off or peel off
倒钩 dàogōu Hooked barbs or jags
霰弹 sǎndàn Buckshot, shrapnel.
针头 zhēntóu Hypodermic needle
勾针 gōuzhēn Darning needle

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