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A comparative study of English translations of Lu Xun’s works

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This paper compares three translators, Chi-chen Wang, the Yangs, and William A Lyell, who translated Lu Xun, the most important and a canonized Chinese writer in the twentieth century, so as to examine how non-linguistic factors affect translation.

Beginning from the introduction of the divergence of the translators’ identities, motivations and socio-cultural background, the paper analyzes the reasons of their preferences in selections of originals, different translation strategies and different translation products.

To introduce real China to the Americans in the 1920s, Wang translated the best stories of Lu Xun into fluent American English, with the difficult and unimportant cultural terms simplified or omitted. The Yangs worked for a nation-sponsored publishing house on mainland China and their translations of Lu Xun in the 1960s were attached with much political significance, which partly explained the closeness and literalness of their translation. While Lyell, an American scholar translating Lu Xun in the 1990s, is more scholarly in his translation, containing very detailed explanations and notes of cultural elements.

This paper is not to judge but to find out how translations are like what they are under certain circumstances and in certain historical periods.

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Keywords: Lu Xun twentieth-century canonized Chinese writer; computer study of three English translations; non-linguistic factors

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Revue internationale de la traduction / International Journal of Translation
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