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The Bai Meigui Translation Competition


structo14This month, we're delighted that the two winning entries in our Bai Meigui translation competition have been published in issue 14 of Structo magazine. As editor Euan Monaghan told us in an interview earlier in the year, the magazine has become increasingly interested, since its founding in 2008, in publishing translations, and often publishes poems in both the original language and in English translation. This is the first time, however, that they've published two different translations of the same story...!

Out of the 88 entries we received for the competition, our judges Nicky Harman, Jeremy Tiang and Helen Wang, chose Natascha Bruce and Michael Day as the joint winners, deciding that their different approaches and choices both deserved the accolade. The text - Dorothy Tse's (谢晓虹) 'Chickens' (鸡) - is part of a longer series of linked stories, some of which have been translated by Nicky as  ‘Monthly Matters’ in Dorothy's collection Snow and Shadow. The story, with its surreal imagery and ambiguous language, poses a fascinating translation challenge, and the judges were hugely impressed with the overall quality of the entries.

They also chose four runners-up - Karen Curtis, Seth Griffin, Kristen Robinson and Andrew Wormald - whose translations you can read on our competition page. And you can read Dorothy's story in its original Chinese on our book club page, where she was our featured author for February.

Here's what the judges had to say about the winning entries:

“It was great to see so many different, strong approaches amongst the entries and we much enjoyed discussing their merits and choosing the ones we thought worked best.  We particularly liked it when it felt as though the translator had got inside the story and was telling it him or herself, when the English language was sharp and alive, and when there was a consistent style throughout the piece. We agreed that the ultimate criteria had to be both accuracy and skill at rendering the author’s style in English, in such a way that would honour the author’s intentions and serve the general reader best.

Both winning entries successfully captured the unease shimmering just beneath the surface, and reflected the sensuousness of the story. Their translations had zest and carried conviction – we felt that the translators approached their task with relish.

As regards the other entries, they had much to recommend them and we were very impressed by the overall quality. The surrealism posed particular challenges, and we sensed that when translators had trouble with some of the more obscure bits, they resolved it by sticking close to the original. In some of the translations, we felt the register was a little too high: after all, the narrator was a young boy, and ‘yet’ and ‘merely’ seemed inappropriate. On the other hand, in most entries, the snippets of dialogue were rendered with real flair, in natural-sounding, colloquial English.

Our congratulations to the two winners, who fulfilled all our criteria and yet produced two very different versions, and to the four runners-up. We are delighted that both winners will be offered a place at the Translate in the City summer school and that their translations will both be published in Structo magazine.”

- Nicky, Jeremy and Helen

We'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who entered the competition. We were really pleased with the number of entries, and hope that everyone enjoyed the experience! Thank you also to our wonderful judges, Nicky, Jeremy and Helen, and to the Translate in the City summer school at City University in London for the bursaries for our two winners. And finally, thank you to Structo magazine, and we hope everyone will go and check out the fantastic issue 14!