Zhang Tianyi (tr. David Hull)
The Pidgin Warrior
Balestier Press 2017
“Big boys, the story in this little book is told for you.”
Thus begins the preface to Zhang Tianyi’s The Pidgin Warrior (Balestier Press, 2017), as translated by the wonderful David Hull. Not just for boys (big or small), The Pidgin Warrior is a moving, hilarious novel set in 1930s Shanghai during wartime. Hull’s translation is a sensitive and humane rendering of characters that are by turns laughable and heartbreaking, coming together in a story about what it is to be a hero – or just to be a functional human being – in times of personal and social upheaval. As you’ll hear me say on the podcast, I actually **put down the most recent climactic issues of the Saga comic book** because the story here was so gripping. That’s to say: this is not just going to be a great book to teach and learn with. It’s also a gripping and fascinatingly rendered story in its own right. In this podcast, Hull and I continued some of the conversation about translation and its joys and challenges that we started in our previous podcast about his translation of Mao Dun’s Waverings, and I recommend checking that one out as well!
Carla Nappi is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh. You can learn more about her and her work here.