David Tod Roy
The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei
Princeton University Press 2013
By any measure, David Tod Roy‘s translation The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei, Vol. 1-5 (Princeton University Press, 1993-2013) is a landmark achievement for East Asian Studies, translation studies, and world literature. Comprising 100 chapters rendered across five volumes, including more than 800 named characters and supported by more than 4,000 endnotes, Roy’s work is a massive accomplishment of textual analysis, writing, research, and translation. Luckily for readers, it’s also a huge pleasure to read. If you, Gentle Reader, are anything like me, you will regularly pause in your poring over the pages of The Plum in the Golden Vase to admire the subtlety and deftness with which Roy has chosen render vernacular Chinese into corresponding English prose, whether one of the characters is claiming to be “a real dingdong dame” or another is being called a “ridiculous blatherskite.” (Blatherskite!) Yes, there is a great deal of explicit sexual description in the work, but it’s a treasure-house of so much more than that, including detailed descriptions of aspects of daily life in the late 16th century that cover everything from food preparation to medicinal recipes to funerary procedures. It was a deep honor, and a pleasure, to talk with David Roy about his masterwork. I hope you enjoy listening to him and reading his translation as much as I did.