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阿城 棋王 二四 translation: Chess King, by Ah Cheng, Chp 2 pt 4

This is the fourth part of a translation of the second 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.

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Original image by Flickr user witness 1



刚一解放,我妈跟的那个人就不见了。 It started as soon as it ended, and the guy my mum was with disappeared.

当时我妈怀着我,吃穿无着,就跟了我现在这个父亲。 At that time my mum was pregnant with me, with no source of food or clothing, and so she went with the man who is now my step-dad.

我这个后爹是卖力气的,可临到解放的时候儿,身子骨儿不行,又没文化,钱就挣得少。 This step-dad of mine was a manual labourer, but when the liberation came, he got ill and he was uneducated, and there wasn't enough money.

和我妈过了以后,原指着相帮着好一点儿,可没想到添了我妹妹后,我妈一天不如一天。 After they got together, the hope was that they'd be able to help each other, but when my younger sister arrived, my mother got worse every day.

那时候我才上小学,脑筋好,老师都喜欢我。 At that time I'd just started primary school; I had a good brain, and my teachers all liked me.

可学校春游、看电影我都不在,给家里省一点儿是一点儿。 When the school went out for spring excursions or to watch films, I was never there; my family saved whatever could be saved.

我妈怕委屈了我,拖累着个身子,到处找活。 My mother feared that she was letting me down; she exhausted herself searching for work.

有一回,我和我母亲给印刷厂叠书页子,是一本讲象棋的书。 One time, my mother and I folded book pages for a printing factory; it was a book about chess.

叠好了,我妈还没送去,我就一篇一篇对着看。 We'd finished folding them, but my mum hadn't sent them on yet; I read it page by page.

不承想,就看出点儿意思来。 To my surprise, I found it quite interesting.

于是有空儿就到街下看人家下棋。 After that, whenever I had time I'd go into the street to watch people play chess.

看了有些日子,就手痒痒,没敢跟家里要钱,自己用硬纸剪了一副棋,拿到学校去下。 I watched for a few days, and then my hands got itchy to play; I didn't dare ask my family for money, so I used cardboard to cut out my own chess set and took it to school.

下着下着就熟了。 I played and played and got good at it.

于是又到街上和别人下。 So then I went into the street to play with other people.

原先我看人家下得挺好,可我这一跟他们真下,还就赢了。 Originally, people who I'd seen play well, but as soon as I played them, I won.

一家伙就下了一晚上,饭也没吃。 I played one guy all evening without eating.

我妈找来了,把我打回去。 My mother came to find me, and beat me home.

唉,我妈身子弱,都打不痛我。 Ah, my mother was weak, and couldn't inflict any pain on me.

到了家,她竟给我跪下了,说:‘小祖宗,我就指望你了! We got home, she actually knelt down and said: 'Ancestors! I'm counting on you!

你若不好好儿念书,妈就死在这儿。’ If you don't study diligently, then your mother will just die here.'

我一听这话吓坏了,忙说:‘妈,我没不好好儿念书。 When I heard that it scared me to death, and I said hurriedly: 'Mum, I haven't been neglecting my studies.

您起来,我不下棋了。’ Get up, I won't play chess anymore.'

我把我妈扶起来坐着。 I helped her up to sit down.

那天晚上,我跟我妈叠页子,叠着叠着,就走了神儿,想着一路棋。 That evening, I folded pages with my mother; I folded and folded, and my mind wandered, and I began thinking about chess.

我妈叹一口气说,‘你也是,看不上电影儿,也不去公园,就玩儿这么个棋。 My mother sighed and said: "Oh you, you can't watch films, can't go to the park, you just play chess.

唉,下吧。 Eh, just play.

可妈的话你得记着,不许玩儿疯了。 But remember mother's words: don't go crazy playing it.

功课要是拉下了,我不饶你。 If you get behind in your homework, I won't forgive you.

我和你爹都不识字儿,可我们会问老师。 Your step-father and I are illiterate, but we'll ask the teacher.

老师若说你功课跟不上,你再说什么也不行。’ If the teacher says you're not doing your homework, you'll have no excuse."

我答应了。 I agreed.

我怎么会把功课拉下呢? How would I get behind in my homework?

学校的算术,我跟玩儿似的。 Doing sums in school was like playing to me.

这以后,我放了学,先做功课,完了就下棋,吃完饭,就帮我妈干活儿,一直到睡觉。 After that, after I finished classes, I'd do my homework first, and then play chess, eat food, and then help my mother work until bedtime.

因为叠页子不用动脑筋,所以就在脑子里走棋,有的时候,魔症了,会突然一拍书页,喊棋步,把家里人都吓一跳。” Because folding pages didn't require my hand, so in my head I was playing chess; sometimes I'd lose myself and suddenly snap the pages together and shout out a chess move, making my family jump."

我说:“怨不得你棋下得这么好,小时候棋就都在你脑子里呢!” I said: "No wonder you play chess so well - it was already in your mind when you were young!"

他苦笑笑说:“是呀,后来老师就让我去少年宫象棋组,说好好儿学,将来能拿大冠军呢! I forced a smile and said: "Yes, afterwards my teacher asked me to join chess group at the youth club, telling me to study well, and in the future I could be a champion!

可我妈说,‘咱们不去什么象棋组,要学,就学有用的本事。 But my mum said, 'We're not going to any chess group; you have to study, and you have to study useful things.

下棋下得好,还当饭吃了? Playing chess well - can that feed you?

有那点儿功夫,在学校多学点儿东西比什么不好? If you're talented, what could be better than learning more at school?

你跟你们老师们说,不去象棋组,要是你们老师还有没教你的本事,你就跟老师说,你教了我,将来有大用呢。啊? Tell your teachers that you're not going to the chess group, and if they won't teach you basic materials, then you say to your teachers, if you teach me, it'll be very useful in future. Eh?

专学下棋? Specially studying chess?

这以前都是有钱人干的! In the past that was something for people with money!

妈以前见过这种人,那都是身份,他们不指着下棋吃饭。 Your mother has seen that kind of person before; they have status - they don't eat from playing chess.

妈以前呆过的地方,也有女的会下棋,可要的钱也多。 The places your mother has worked in, there were also girls who could play chess, and they earned even more money.

唉,你不知道,你不懂。 Ah, you don't know, you don't understand.

下下玩儿可以,别专学,啊?’ Playing for fun is fine, but don't specially study it, eh?'

我跟老师说了,老师想了想,没说什么。 I told my teacher, and they thought about it, and didn't say anything.

后来老师买了一副棋送我,我拿给妈看,妈说,‘唉,这是善心人哪! After, my teacher bought a chess set for me, and when I showed it to my mother, she said: 'Ah, what a kind person!

可你记住,先说吃,再说下棋。 But remember, think of food first and chess second.

等你挣了钱,养活家了,爱怎么下就怎么下,随你。’” Wait till you've earned some money, look after your family, and then you can play as much as you like, whatever.'"

我感叹了,说:“这下儿好了,你挣了钱,你就能撒着欢儿地下了,你妈也就放心了。” I sighed and said: "I've played now, you've made money, you can play happily now, and your mother must be relieved."

王一生把脚搬上床,盘了坐,两只手互相捏着腕子,看着地下说:“我妈看不见我挣钱了。 Wang Yisheng shifted his feet on the bed, crossed his legs, kneaded his hands and wrists, looked at the floor and said: "My mother never saw me making money.

家里供我念到初一,我妈就死了。 By the time my family provided for me study to the first year of middle school, my mother died.

死之前,特别跟我说,‘这一条街都说你棋下得好,妈信。 Before she died, she said to me especially, 'Everyone on the street says you play chess well. Your mother believes it.

可妈在棋上疼不了你。 I never let you play chess.

你在棋上怎么出息,到底不是饭碗。 Whatever profits you make playing chess, it will never be a bowl of rice.

妈不能看你念完初中,跟你爹说了,怎么着困难,也要念完。 Mother won't see you finish middle school; I've said to your step-dad, whatever problems there are, you must finish studying.

高中,妈打听了,那是为上大学,咱们家用不着上大学,你爹也不行了,你妹妹还小,等你初中念完了就挣钱,家里就靠你了。 As for college, I've asked, it's only for going to university, and we don't need anyone going to university; your step-dad isn't well, your little sister is still young; once you've finished middle school start making money - the family's relying on you now.

妈要走了,一辈子也没给你留下什么,只捡人家的牙刷把,给你磨了一副棋。’ Your mother is leaving, and I never left you anything my whole life; I've just gathered up some old toothbrush handles - I carved them into a chess set for you.'

说着,就叫我从枕头底下拿出一个小布包来,打开一看,都是一小点儿大的子儿,磨得是光了又光,赛象牙,可上头没字儿。 As she spoke, she had me take out a little bundle from under the pillow; when I opened it to look, it was little pieces, carved to a shine, as good as ivory, but without characters on top.

妈说,‘我不识字,怕刻不对。 My mum said: 'I don't know characters, and was worried I'd carve them wrong.

你拿了去,自己刻吧,也算妈疼你好下棋。’ Take them and carve them yourself, and you can take that as my blessing.'

我们家多困难,我没哭过,哭管什么呢? Our family had many difficulties, but I never cried - what use is crying?

可看着这副没字儿的棋,我绷不住了。” But seeing these characterless chess pieces, I couldn't control my face."

我鼻子有些酸,就低了眼,叹道:“唉,当母亲的。” I started to well up, and I lowered my eyes, and sighed: "Ah, being a mother..."

王一生不再说话,只是抽烟。 Wang Yisheng stopped speaking and just smoked.

← Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5 →

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

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