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汪曾祺 生前友好 translation: A Close Friend in Life, by Wang Zengqi (excerpt)

This is a translation of an excerpt from the story 生前友好 (‘A Close Friend in Life’) by the Chinese author 汪曾祺 (Wang Zengqi).

生前友好 A Close Friend in Life

他是剧院的电工。 He's the electrician at the theatre.

剧院现在不演现代戏,传统戏只要打个大平光,把台上照亮了就行了,有演出,他上剧场去,没有多少事。 The theatre doesn't put on modern plays at present, and for traditional plays he only has to put on a large wide light - so long as it lights up the stage it's fine; when there's a performance, he goes into the theatre, and doesn't have much to do.

白天,到剧院上班,很准时。 In the day, he comes to the theatre for work very punctually.

院部也没有多少事,有时电线短路,保险丝烧断了灯泡蹩了,需要修理一下,也都是举手之劳。 There isn't much to do at the theatre either; sometimes a power cable short circuits, a fuse blows or a light goes dim and needs maintenance, but none of it is much effort at all.

但是他整天在院部各处走来走去,屁股后面佩了一个插了全部电工工具的皮套。 But we walks back and forth all over the theatre every day, wearing a leather bag with all his electrician's tools stuffed in it behind him.

他人很瘦小,这个全部武装的皮套对他说起来显得有点过于沉重。 He's a slight person, and that fully-equipped leather bag looks a little too heavy on him.

但是他愿意整天佩带着,这样才显出他是电工,是技术人员,和管衣箱的箱倌,刮片子的梳头桌师傅不一样。 But he's willing to wear it all day, because that way he looks like an electrician, like technical staff, different to the wardrobe keeper and the record operator [?].

他有两个特点,一个是爱吃辣,一个是爱参加追悼会。 There are two special things about him: one, he loves to eat spicy food, and two, he loves to attend funerals.

前门饭店餐厅有一个时候对外营业,菜品不多,但是是正宗川味,而且价钱不贵。 At one time the hotel diner at the main entrance did external trade [?]; there aren't a lot of dishes, but it's genuine Sichuan style, and the price isn't too high.

有些菜是别的川菜馆里不易吃得着的,比如白萝卜炖牛肉。 Some of the dishes are difficult to find in other Sichuan restaurants, such as beef in white radish sauce.

麻婆豆腐做得很地道,豆腐很嫩,泛着一层红油。 They make a very authentic _mapo tofu_ - the tofu is very tender, and is suffused with a layer of spicy oil.

这位电工师傅几乎每天中午都到前门饭店吃饭,要一个麻婆豆腐,四两米饭。 This electrician goes to the diner by the main entrance to eat almost every afternoon, and orders one _mapo tofu_ and four ounces of rice.

有剧院的熟人来,——多半是二路演员、打鼓佬,他必要点头招呼,并说: When acquaintances from the theatre come - most likely two road show performers and the drummer guy, he has to nod his head in greeting, and say:

“就爱吃个辣!” "I love to eat something spicy!"

好像这是值得骄傲的事。 It seems that this is something worthy of pride.

他有理由骄傲,剧院的三路角以下的“苦哈哈”能每天上前门饭店吃饭的,不多。 He has reason to be proud - there aren't many down-and-outs from those three areas of theatre [?] that can go to the diner by the main entrance to eat every day.

他对只吃窝头炸酱面的主儿,看不起。 He looks down on those who only eat _zhajiang_ noodles and steamed corn bread.

剧院有六七百号人,死人的事是经常发生的。 The theatre has six or seven hundred people on its register [?], and people dying is something that happens a lot.

人死了,要开追悼会。 When someone dies, there must be a funeral.

电工师傅早打听好了,追悼会哪天开,头一天就作好了心理准备。 The electrician inquires about it early - what day the funeral is - and prepares himself mentally a day before.

不管是谁的追悼会他都参加,从不缺席,特别是名角的追悼会,尽管这些名角没跟他说过话。 No matter who the funeral is for, he goes, and is never absent, particularly if it's the funeral of a famous actor, even if that famous actor never spoke to him.

开往八宝山的大轿车停在院子里,车门一开,他头一个上去。 Once the large carriage car heading for Mt. Babao is in the courtyard, as soon as the door is open, he's the first in.

他总是坐在最后一排。 He always sits on the back row.

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