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阿城 棋王 二一 translation: Chess King, by Ah Cheng, Chp 2 pt 1

This is the sixth part of a translation of the first chapter of the 1984 novel 棋王 (‘Chess King’) by the Chinese author 阿城 (Ah Cheng).

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page.

← Chapter 1, Part 8 · Chapter 2, Part 1 · Chapter 2, Part 2 →



这个农场在大山林里,活计就是砍树,烧山,挖坑,再栽树。 This form was in a forest on a large mountain, and the work was chopping down trees, burning off the mountain, digging holes and then planting more trees.

不栽树的时候, 就种点儿粮食。 When they weren't planting trees, they'd plant food crops.

交通不便,运输不够,常常就买不到谋油点灯。 Transport wasn't convenient - there wasn't enough capacity, and it was often impossible to buy oil for the lamps.

晚上黑灯瞎火,大家凑在一起臭聊,天南地北。 At night it was pitch black, and everyone gathered together to chat about this and that.

又因为常割资本主义尾巴,生活就清苦得很,常常一个月每人只有五钱油,吃饭钟一敲,大家就疾跑如飞。 Because we constantly sought to defeat the dregs of capitalism, life was very difficult, and it would often happen that in one month everyone had only 5 kuai's worth of oil, and when it was time to eat, everyone would rush as if in flight.

大锅菜是先煮后搁油,油又少,只在汤上浮几个大花儿。 Big woks of vegetables were boiled first and then the oil was put on, but still there was little oil, with only a few drops floating on top of the soup.

落在后边,常常就只能吃清水南瓜或清水茄子。 Those arriving late *[?]* would often only be able to eat plain boiled pumpkin or plain boiled aubergines.

米倒是不缺,国家供应商品粮,每人每月四十二斤。 Rice, on the other hand, was plentiful, as it was a state-provided provision, and everyone got 22 pounds of it a month.

可没油水,挖山又不是轻活,肚子就越吃越大。 But there was no oil, and digging the mountain wasn't light work - the more you eat the bigger your belly gets. *[?]*

我倒是没有什么,毕竟强似讨吃。 But I was fine, actually - in the end it was better than begging.

每月又有二十几元工薪,家里没有人惦记着,又没有找女朋友,就买了烟学抽,不料越抽越凶。 Each month we got about twenty or so dollars in wages, and as there was no-one to be concerned about at home, and we weren't looking for girlfriends, we bought cigarettes and learnt how to smoke, and to our surprise found ourselves smoking more and more fervently.

山上活儿紧时,常常累翻,就想: Work on the mountain was strictly scheduled, often tiring us out completely, making me think:

呆子不知怎么干?那么精瘦的一个人。 What will the geek do? He's so thin and meagre.

晚上大家闲聊,多是精神会餐。 In the evening everyone chatted idly, their mind on food. *[?]*

我又想,呆子的吃相可能更恶了。 I thought again, the geek is probably eating even worse.

我父亲在时,炒得一手好菜,母亲都比不上他,星期天常邀了同事,专事品尝,我自然精于此道。 When my father was still around, when we had some good food to fry, my mother couldn't compare to him *[?]*, and on Sundays would often invite colleagues round to taste it, so naturally I was good at this.

因此聊起来,常常是主角,说得大家个个儿腮胀,常常发一声喊,将我按倒在地上,说像我这样儿的人实在是祸害,不如宰了炒吃。 Because of this I started chatting, often taking the lead, speaking till my cheeks were swollen; often as soon as I let out a sound, they would have me on the floor *[?]*, saying someone like me was actually a scourge, and they ought to kill, fry and eat me.

下雨时节,大家都慌忙上山去挖笋, 又到沟里捉田鸡,无奈没有油,常常吃得胃酸。 In the rainy season, everyone would be in a rush to go up the mountain and dig up bamboo shoots, and to go into the ravine and catch frogs; without any oil, people couldn't getting acid reflux.

山上总要放火,野兽们都惊走了, 极难打到。 There were always fires being started on the mountain, and the wild animals would be startled out, but they were extremely hard to catch.

即使打到,野物们走惯了,没膘,熬不得油。 Even if you could catch one, the wild animals were worn out; they didn't have a lot of fat, and you couldn't get oil from it.

尺把长的老鼠也捉来吃, 因鼠是吃粮的,大家说鼠肉就是人肉,也算吃人吧。 It was forbidden to catch rats to eat *[?]*: because the rats ate the crops, everyone said that rat meat was human meat, so it was be like eating people.

我又常想,呆子难道不馋? I would often think, wouldn't the geek be greedy?

好上加好,固然是馋,其实饿时更馋。 *[?]*, admittedly he was greedy, but when you're hungry you're greedier.

不馋,吃的本能不能发挥,也不得寄托。 If you're not greedy, your eating instinct won't kick in, and couldn't be trusted.

又想 ,呆子不知还下棋不下棋。 Then I thought, I wonder if the geek is playing chess or not?

我们分场与他们分场隔着近百里,来去一趟不容易,也就见不着。 Our area was about 100 _li_ away from theirs; a round trip wasn't easy, so we didn't see each other.

转眼到了夏季。 Summer came round in a flash.

有一天,我正在山上干活儿,远远望见山下小路上有一个人。 One day, when I was working on the mountain, looking into the distance I saw someone on the road below the mountain.

大家觉得影儿生,就议论是什么人。 Everyone saw the shadow and discussed who it might be.

有人说是小毛的男的吧。 Someone said it was Xiao Mao's man.

小毛是队里一个女知青,新近在外场找了一个朋友,可谁也没见过。 Xiao Mao was a female intellectual youth in the group, and recently she had made a friend from another group, but no-one had seen the guy.

大家就议论可能是这个人来找小毛 ,于是满山喊小毛,说她的汉子来了。 Everyone said that it might be someone coming to see Xiao Mao, and at that everyone started calling for Xiao Mao, saying her man was here.

小毛丢了锄,跌跌撞撞跑过来,伸了脖子看 。 Xiao Mao put aside her rake, and went trundling off, straining her neck to look.

还没等小毛看好,我却认出来人是王一生——棋呆子。 Before Xiao Mao had had a chance to look, I realised that the person coming was actually Wang Yisheng - the chess geek.

于是大叫,别人倒吓了一跳,都问:“找你的?”我很得意。 At this I called out, startling the others, who all asked "Looking for you?!" I was very pleased.

我们这个队有四个省市的知青,与我同来的不多,自然他们不认识王一生。 In our team there were four intellectual youths from the city, and not many had come with me, so naturally they didn't know Wang Yisheng.

我这时正代理一个管三四个人的小组长,于是对大家说:“散了,不干了。 At that moment I was acting as a manager for a small team of three or four people, and said to everyone: "Off you go, stop work.

大家也别回去,帮我看看山上可有什么吃的弄点儿。 But don't go back - help me find stuff to eat on the mountain.

到钟点儿再下山,拿到我那儿去烧。 At finishing work time we'll go down the mountain, and take it all to my place to cook.

你们打了饭,都过来一起吃。” You've found the food, so come and eat it together."

大家于是就钻进乱草里去寻了。 At that everyone got stuck into the foliage to search for stuff.

← Chapter 1, Part 8 · Chapter 2, Part 1 · Chapter 2, Part 2 →

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page.

Further reading