Sunday, February 08, 2009

More on Chen the Splittist Paragraph in FT

A couple of weeks ago I commented on the Financial Times' translation of a passage from Chen Shui-bian's new book The Cross of Taiwan. At the time I wrote:
As bonus for this week's translation puzzle hounds, in the Chinese of passage in Chen's new book the Financial Times translated last week, does the term "fenli zhuyizhe" (splittist) occur in the Chinese of this paragraph?
Some people believe that if Taiwan makes concessions to China , China will respond benignly. This is a very naive fantasy. China cannot remove the missiles it has aimed at Taiwan , just as under the “one China ” principle it cannot accept separate interpretations of what one China means. China 's basic attitude towards Taiwan has already been set. It cannot be changed by people in Beijing but only by the 23m people in Taiwan . I admit that I seek not just de facto independence for Taiwan but also de jure independence. Therefore the criticisms levelled at me by China and the US during my eight years in office were not groundless. Just like they said, I am a splittist. I am a seeker and practitioner of de jure independence for Taiwan.
....I may have identified the wrong paragraph (p189), but in Chinese that sentence says: "I am just what they say, I am a 'Taiwan independence advocate' (taidu lunzhe). "Splittist" isn't in there.
The reason my comment was tentative was because I couldn't make sense of the Financial Times' translation of that passage, and figured my Chinese was having problems. Maddog dropped me an email that resolved the conundrum for me.

First, take a look at the passage as FT presents it. The image at the top of the post contains the article from the FT website. The piece as translated is clearly and cleanly paragraphed -- it looks like it is all one passage -- and there is no indication given anywhere on the website or in the article that the paragraph that so confused me is actually a composite of two completely different paragraphs located on two different pages. The bottom of the page says, in English:
This excerpt, translated from Chinese, is part of a book Mr Chen wrote while behind bars.
The phrase "this excerpt" clearly indicates to the reader that the passage forms a whole.

p187 on left, p189 on right

The reality is that the paragraph that contains the false translation "splittist" is made up of a paragraph on p187 joined to a second paragraph on p189. To wit:
Some people believe that if Taiwan makes concessions to China , China will respond benignly. This is a very naive fantasy. China cannot remove [or reduce] the missiles it has aimed at Taiwan , just as under the “one China ” principle it cannot accept separate interpretations [MT: "separate interpretations" translates "One China, Separate Interpretations" that Ma is pushing] of what one China means. [Several sentences are removed, beginning: China opposes One Taiwan One China, as well as Two Chinas. The so-called One China, Separate Interpretations it naturally cannot accept... the paragraph then continues: ] China 's basic attitude towards Taiwan has already been set. It cannot be changed by people in Beijing but only by the 23m people in Taiwan. I admit that I seek not just de facto independence for Taiwan but also de jure independence. Therefore the criticisms levelled at me by China and the US during my eight years in office were not groundless. Just like they said, I am a splittist. I am a seeker and practitioner of de jure independence for Taiwan.
The translator yoked together parts of a paragraph from p187 (dark brown) with many sentences missing and some phrases eliminated or shortened (in the last sentence it says Zhongnanhai, not Beijing, but that is a necessary change). From page 189 the translator then picked up the entire paragraph (light brown) but changed the words independence advocate to splittist, a word nowhere in evidence in that paragraph. Note that there is no evidence of any of these changes or gaps in the text.

The rest of the passage is similarly constructed, taken from paragraphs all over the book and strung together as if it were one long passage, with no clue to the reader that it is not. Is this normal for the international media when excerpting books?

UPDATE: FT was kind enough to send a long response to me, from the person who translated it. FT says that Chen and his staff worked closely with FT, providing the excerpts for the piece, and approved the final English wording, including the word "splittist."

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Thanks for your reconstruction of truth. Where did you get your copy of the book, by the way? I have been trying to get one.

Michael Turton said...

You can find it at Caves. I did, in Taichung.

Anonymous said...

Time to go the whole hog, Michael.

Why not contact FT and ask for an explanation?

Michael Turton said...

Already done, man.

Tim Maddog said...

I got my own copy of "Taiwan's Cross" (台灣的十字架) (using my last consumer voucher) at the Eslite Bookstore (誠品書店), where it was on the bestsellers shelf (because everybody hates Chen Shui-bian?).

As for the "explanation" of why the Financial Times would do such a thing, their answer -- if they even give one -- is certain to be merely an excuse for inexcusable behavior.

Here's contact info for the Financial Times if anyone wants to let them know that you are aware of their repeated distortion of the truth when it comes to Taiwan.

But I wouldn't get my hopes up that the scorpion won't sting the frog this time around, um, I mean, that they'll do anything to "correct" what apparently makes them lots of money.

Tim Maddog

dennis said...

good job on the investigation Michael. something doggy going on there looks like.