Yang Jiang 1911 – 2016

Two months ago renowned Chinese translator Yang Jiang passed away. Noted in the English speaking world for her memoir of life as an exiled intellectual during the Cultural Revolution, this book was translated into English by Howard Goldblatt, and was entitled in English 'Six Chapters from My Life Downunder'

Australia won the race to own the expression ‘Downunder’, but she (or he) was modelling the title on another work of Chinese literature ‘Six Records of a Floating Life’ – a description of day-to-day life in the form of an autobiography of the Qing Dynasty writer Shen Fù. This title was in turn referencing a line from a poem by the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai: ‘The floating life is but as a dream; how much longer can we enjoy our happiness?’

If the Chinese title of Yang Jiang’s book is examined in Google translate however, ‘from My Life “Downunder”’ simply comes up as ‘cadre’, and ‘Floating Life’ was the title of a 1996 Australian film about a Hong Kong family who moves to Australia.

copyright © Chris Poole Translation