German version of Chinese classic

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-08-18 08:55

"It is as if The Song of the Nibelungs in the form of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings had come upon us; Game of Thrones is kindergarten when compared with it."

This was the introduction of China's ancient classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by German newspaper Die Welt in an article, following the publication of the first complete German translation of the classic by Sinologist Eva Schestag.

Prior to this edition, presented by S. Fisher publishing house earlier this year, with the name of Die Drei Reiche, only 35 of a total 120 chapters had been translated into German by Sinologist Franz Kuhn in the mid-20th century.

"It goes without saying that it was an honor and pleasure at the same time to have a chance to dedicate six years to the translation of this book," Schestag says, adding that the importance of this classic as well as the lack of a full-length German translation were motivations behind her work.

"It's a key to understanding the Asian culture," she says.

Besides, the novel is so popular in China that the history of Three Kingdoms comes alive even in modern times through an array of media renditions, including movies, TV series, video games and board games, Schestag writes in the postface of her book.

Looking back at the translation process, Schestag recalls what a daunting task it seemed when she first started.

"It almost took my breath away when I opened Page 1 of about 2,000 to be translated-as if looking up from the foot of a high and steep mountain up to the peak."

Since 2011 when she was officially commissioned with the translation, she had stayed for a long time at Looren Translators' House, a translators' residence nestled in the mountains in Switzerland, to retreat from almost all obligations other than translating.

Romance of Three Kingdoms, acclaimed as one of the four great classical novels in Chinese literature, is set in a tumultuous history in the second and third centuries when feudal lords of three states scrambled to rule China following the decline of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220).

Schestag says the novel can only be compared with Homer's Odyssey in terms of its influence and significance.

"The two literary works are comparable on the basis of the complexity of the plot and subplots and, last but not the least, their influence on the subsequent literature of their respective cultural areas."

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