老舍骆驼祥子葛浩文译本 A Rickshaw Boy
Translated by Howard Goldblatt
Lao She (Shu Qingchun, 1899–1966) remains one of the most widely read Chinese novelists of the first half of the twentieth century, and probably its most beloved. Born into an impoverished Manchu family—his father, a lowly palace guard for the Qing emperor, was killed during the 1900 Boxer Rebel-lion—he was particularly sensitive to his link to the hated Manchu Dynasty, which ruled China from the mid-seventeenth century until it was overthrown in 1911. The view of one of his biographers is difficult to dispute: “The poverty of his childhood and the fact that these were also the years when the dynasty was collapsing and the Manchus were becoming a target of increasingly bitter attacks left a deep shadow on Lao She’s impressionable mind and later kept him from personal participation in political activities. But his alienation strengthened his sense of patriotism and made his need to identify with China even more acute.”*
After graduating from Beiping Normal School, Lao She spent half a dozen years as a schoolteacher, primary school principal, and school administrator. Then, in 1924, after joining a Christian society and studying English, he accompanied a British missionary, Clemont Egerton, to London, where he taught Chinese at the University of London’s School of Oriental Studies. Among his lesser-discussed activities there was the acknowledged assistance to Egerton in his translation of the “indecent” classical novel The Golden Lotus, in which the racy parts were rendered in Latin. During his time away from the classroom, Lao She read voraciously. He has written of his fascination with British novels, in particular the work of Charles Dickens, whose devotion to the urban downtrodden and use of ironic humor Lao She found particularly affecting; they would inform much of his own work, particularly the early novels and stories.
Lao She’s literary career began during his five-year stay in England, where he wrote three novels: The Philosophy of Lao Zhang (1926), a mostly comical look at middle-class Beiping residents and modeled, in the author’s own words, after Nicholas Nickleby and The Pickwick Papers; Zhao Ziyue (1927), a generally unsympathetic exposé of the activities of a group of college students; and The Two Mas (1929), the tale of a Chinese father and son living, and loving, in London. All three were serialized in China’s most prestigious literary magazine of the day, Short Story Magazine, before Lao She returned to China, in 1929, after a six-month stop in Singapore, where he taught Chinese in a middle school; there he wrote most of a short novel, The Birthday of Little Po (1931), the only one of his novels that focuses entirely on a child, a Cantonese boy living in Singapore.
Upon Lao She’s return to China, he landed a teaching job at a Shandong university, where he continued to write
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