Conveying the magic of Marquez

Updated: 2011-08-19 07:58

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

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When Fan Ye started to translate One Hundred Years of Solitude into Chinese, the Spanish teacher at Peking University didn't expect it to be so successful.

Hailed as the most faithful version of author Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece, Fan's translation has been on the bestselling fiction list since May.

The excitement was like a revival of the zeal some 20 years ago when "every literature lover had a copy of the novel", Fan says.

Yet, few readers know that Fan's version is the first authorized version on the mainland, as all previous translations were published without permission from Marquez.

Beijing-based Thinkingdom House made inquiries about acquiring the copyright from the writer's agent, Carmen Balcells, in 2002, and succeeded in early 2010.

"We had been e-mailing as if to the air for five years then we got the first of Carmen's replies," says Li Yao, chief editor of the foreign literature section of the publishing house.

Li says the company paid "an unusually large sum of money" with the idea of "paying back the debts" that Chinese publishing business owed to the writer, after so many copies of his novel had been produced in China without the author earning a cent.

When it came to finding the translator, the idea was to find someone who was about Marquez's age, in his 30s, when he created the novel. Fan stood out.

Vigorous and experienced, the 34-year-old said the job was "a rare opportunity to play a kungfu game with a master of the Spanish language".

"I cater to Chinese readers by re-presenting what most Spanish readers feel when reading the novel," Fan says.

"I don't translate according to systematic theories," he adds.

The author has a powerful and self-assured tone while narrating, Fan says, which makes even the most absurd situations appear credible.

The translation also has few notes, to mimic the way Marquez writes, without arranging the text into chapters.

"Garcia Marquez wants his readers to feel the magic and doesn't like to remind them that they're reading a book," Fan says. "I don't, either."


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