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阿城 棋王 一六 translation: Chess King, by Ah Cheng, Chp 1 pt 6

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).

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可这媳妇,每做一顿饭,必抓出一把米来藏好……” But this daughter-in-law, every time she made a meal, she would grab a handful of rice and hide it.

听到这儿,我忍不住插嘴: When I heard that, I couldn't help interrupting:

“老掉牙的故事了,还不是后来遇了荒年,大家没饭吃,媳妇把每日攒下的米拿出来,不但自家有了,还分给穷人?” "It's an old story, it's lost its power - isn't it that one where later in years of shortage, and no-one had anything to eat, and the daughter in law would take out the rice she'd been saving every day, and not only her own family had some, but she also shared it with poor people?

他很惊奇地坐直了,看着我说:“你知道这个故事?可那米没有分给别人,五奶奶没有说分给别人。” He looked very surprised and sat down, looked at me and said: "You know this story? They don't share the rice out with other people - Granny Wu didn't say they gave it to other people."

我笑了,说:“这是教育小孩儿要节约的故事,你还拿来有滋有味儿得讲,你真是呆子。 I smiled and said: "This story is for teaching children to save - you still told it with gusto - you really are an idiot.

这不是一个吃的故事。” It's not a story about eating.

他摇摇头,说:“这太是吃的故事了。 He shook his head and said: "This really is a story about eating.

首先得有饭,才能吃,这家子有一囤一囤的粮食。 First you get food, and then you can eat, and this family had food by the grain. [?]

可光穷吃不行,得记着断顿儿的时候,每顿都要欠一点儿。 But eating everything you've got isn't OK, you've got to remember the times when the food will run out - you've got to cut down a bit every meal.

老话儿说‘半饥半饱日子长’嘛。” An old saying goes: 'half hungry half full, you'll live long'".

我想笑但没笑出来,似乎明白了一些什么。 I wanted to laugh but couldn't, and it seemed like I'd understood something.

为了打消这种异样的感触,就说:“呆子,我跟你下棋吧。” In order to dispel this weird feeling, I said: "Geek, I'll play chess with you."

他一下高兴起来,紧一紧手脸,啪啪啪就把棋码好,说: He was instantly happy, and rubbed his cheeks [?]; he arranged the chess pieces noisily and said:

“对,说什么吃的故事,还是下棋。 "Yeah - telling stories about eating? Better to play chess.

下棋最好,何以解不痛快?唯有下象棋。啊?哈哈哈!你先走。” Playing chess is best, how can you not enjoy it? There is only chess. Eh? Hahaha. You go first."

我又是当头炮,他随后把马跳好。 I used a cannon-to-centre opening again, and then he moved his knight.

我随便动了一个子儿,他很快地把兵移前 一格儿。 I moved a piece randomly, and he immediately moved a pawn own square ahead.

我并不真心下棋,心想他念到中学,大约是读过不少书的,就问: My heart wasn't really in playing chess; it occurred to me that he had studied up to middle school, so he'd probably read quite a few books; I asked:

“你读过曹操的《短歌行》?” "Have you ever read Cao Cao's 'Short Ballad'?"

他说:“什么《短歌行》?” He said: "What 'Short Ballad'?"

我说:“那你怎么知道‘何以解忧,唯有杜康’?” I said: "Then how do you know 'how to dispel worries, there is only Du Kang'?"

他愣了,问:“杜康是什么?” He stared blankly and asked: "What's Du Kang?"

我说:“杜康是一个造酒的人,后来也就代表酒,你把杜康换成象棋,倒也风趣。” I said: "Du Kang made wine, and later he came to represent wine; you changed Du Kang into chess - it was quite witty."

他摆了一下头,说:“ 啊,不是。 He shook his head and said: "Oh, no.

这句话是一个老头儿说的,我每回和他下棋,他总说这句。” That sentence is just an old man's saying, every time I go back and play chess with him, he always says that."

我想起了传闻中的捡烂纸老头儿,就问:“是捡烂纸的老头儿吗?” I thought of the rumours and the old man in them who collected waste paper, and asked: "Was it the old man who collects waste paper?"

他看了我一眼,说: He looked at me and said:

“ 不是。不过,捡烂纸的老头儿棋下得好,我在他那儿学到不少东西。” No. But the old man who collected waste paper played chess well - I learnt a lot from him there."

我很感兴趣地问:“这老头儿是个什么人?怎么下得一手好棋还捡烂纸?” I was really interested and asked him: "What kind of person is that old man? How can you play chess well and still have to collect waste paper?"

他很轻地笑了一下 ,说:“下棋不当饭。 He smiled slightly and said: "Playing chess doesn't get you food.

老头儿要吃饭,还得捡烂纸。 The old man wanted to eat, so he had to collect waste paper.

可不知他以前是什么人。 But I don't know what kind of person he was before.

有一回,我抄的几张棋谱不知怎么找不到了,以为当垃圾倒出去了,就到垃圾站去翻。 One time, I'd copied down a few records of chess games, but somehow I couldn't find them; I thought maybe they'd been thrown out as rubbish, so I went to the rubbish tip to have a look through.

正翻着,这老头儿推着筐过来了,指着我说:‘你个大小伙子,怎么抢我的买卖? ’ Just as I was looking through it, the old man came in pushing a trolley,

我说不是,是找丢了的东西,他问什么东西,我没搭理他。 I said I wasn't, I was looking for something I'd lost;

可他问个不停,‘钱 ,存摺儿?结婚帖子?’ But he asked incessantly: "Money? Deposit books? Marriage certificates?"

我只好说是棋谱,正说着,就找到了。 I could only said that it was a chess record, and as I was saying it, I found it.

他说叫他看看。 He made me show it to him.

他在路灯底下挺快就看完了,说‘这棋没根哪’。 He read it very quickly under the street light, and said: 'This chess is worthless.'

我说这是以前市里的象棋比赛。 I said it was a previous municipal chess competition.

可他说,‘哪儿的比赛也没用,你瞧这,这叫棋路?狗脑子。’ But he said: 'All competitions are useless, look at this, is this called chess? It's bird-brained.'

我心想怕是遇上异人了,就问他当怎么走。 Inside I was afraid I'd encountered a weirdo; I asked him how the game should have been played.

老头儿哗哗说了一通棋谱儿,我一听,真的不凡,就提出要跟他下一盘。 The old man rambled on and on about a chess record, and when I heard it I knew it was something special, so I said I wanted to play a game with him.

老头让我先说。 The old man made me speak first.

我们俩就在垃圾站下盲棋,我是连输五盘。 So the two of us played blind chess without a board on the rubbish tip; I lost five times in a row.

老头儿棋路猛听头几步,没什么,可着子真阴真狠,打闪一般,网得开,收得又紧又快。 When you heard the first few moves, it didn't seem like much, but his moves were subtle and merciless; we played a game in a flash; he would set his trap and then close it tightly and quickly.

后来我们见天儿在垃圾站下盲棋,每天回去我就琢磨他的棋路,以后居然跟他平过一盘,还赢过一盘。 Afterwards every day we played blind chess at the rubbish tip, and every day I would go back and think about the way he played chess; afterwards I managed to draw a game with him, and then I won one.

其实赢的那盘我们一共才走了十几步。 In fact, the time that I won, we'd only played a dozen or so moves.

老头儿用铅丝扒子敲了半天地面,叹一声,‘你赢了。 The old man used his electro-plated rake to knock on the ground for ages, sighed and said 'You've won!’

我高兴了,直说要到他那儿去看看。 I was happy, and said I wanted to go over to his place.

老头儿白了我一眼,说,‘撑的?!’ The old man annoyed and said: 'Are you asking for it?!'

告诉我明天晚上再在这儿等他。 He told me to come back and wait for there the following evening.

第二天我去了,见他推着筐远远来了。 I went the next day, and saw him pushing a basket from a long way off.

到了跟前,从筐里取出一个小布包,递到我手上,说这也是谱儿,让我拿回去,看瞧得懂不。 When he got near, he took out a small cloth bundle from the basket and passed it over to me, saying that this was also a chess record, and made me take it back look to see if I understood it.

又说哪天有走不动的棋,让我到这儿来说给他听听,兴许他就走动了。 Then he said that if I ever had a move I couldn't make in chess, I should go there and tell him about it, and perhaps he'd know how to take it.

我赶紧回到家里,打开一看,还真他妈不懂。 I hurriedly returned home, opened it, but I really did not fucking understand it.

← Part 5 · Part 6 · Part 7 →

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

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