Lin Shu’s story-retelling as shown in his Chinese translation of La Dame aux Camélias
Lin Shu (1852-1924), one of the most important forerunners in China’s history of modern literary translation, rendered some 170 works of European and American literature into Chinese during the late-Qing and early-Republican period from 1890 to 1919. In so doing, he not only heralded the advent of Western literature in China, but also introduced Chinese writers and readers to many new literary techniques. However, important as they are, Lin’s translations are not translations in the true sense of the word, because, unable to read a single foreign language himself, he had to depend on his collaborators, who orally relayed the meaning of the original to him. During the process of translation, he freely resorted to such techniques as addition, omission, abridging, etc., giving his work a strong personal stamp. This article is an attempt to shed light on Lin’s mode of translation and to evaluate his role as a translator by closely examining his version of La Dame aux camélias, the first Chinese translation of a work of Western literature, against the French original.
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