Spittoon: A Reader of Translations (With Chinese Characteristics)” by Shen Danqi 沈诞琦

2019-08-17 ☼ translations

He Yang had a friend named Guillaume, and Guillaume was interesting. If compelled to expand on interesting”, she would describe him as a maker of interesting mistakes”. Their mistake was the time they took off all their clothes and laid down in bed together, and the first thing they discussed on that creaking bed was this: how to ensure that such a mistake never occur again. Then they carried on chatting, and for some reason Guillaume told He Yang that Yukio Mishima was the writer he most revered. He Yang made a noncommittal noise in response; she had never heard of Yukio Mishima. But when she did a search online after she got home, she discovered that Yukio Mishima was, in fact, none other than 三岛记夫. She sent Guillaume a message: Did I mention that Yukio Mishima is my favourite writer too? (She had to triple check the Anglicised spelling of 三岛记夫.) Have you read The Golden Temple? He replied: You must mean The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. She called him at once, so delighted was she with his reply. How about Tidal Disturbance’?” she asked as soon as he picked up. Yes,” he replied without hesitation, I do like The Sound of Waves.” And The Five Mortal Omens of a Celestial Being’? It’s about reincarnation. My favourite Chinese author loved that book.” He was a silent for a moment, then took a long breath. The tone of his reply was that of an examinee answering a particularly tricky test question: That must be The Decay of the Angel.” That unbearable silence before Guillaume answered the test question should have served as a warning to He Yang: careful now, careful. They both failed to realise that the author they revered was in fact neither Yukio Mishima nor三岛记夫, but三島由紀夫 (or みしまゆきお). This was another interesting mistake. It was owing to this mistake that they started dating, and it was owing to this mistake that they parted.

Read the full story in Spittoon issue 5.