Translation from NER 39.3
An avenger should not break his sword.
A jealous man should not complain of a tile falling off the roof.
—Zhaungzi (369–280 bc)
Translated from the Chinese by Xujun Eberlein
A white candle; a half jar of honey. The honey is not in his view right now. The honey is in the jar; he is sitting on the low bed. But his senses are filled with honey, dense, thick. The bile does not rise into his throat. He has a good appetite. He hasn’t vomited many times in his whole life. A whole life. How long is a whole life? Have I had a whole life now? Doesn’t matter. This is a very common pet phrase. Everybody says, “In my whole life . . .” Like this monk—monks must often eat this kind of wild honey. His eyes narrow a bit, because the candlelight jumps, and a heap of shadows jumps, too. He smiles once: in his mind he has come up with a name for the monk, “the honey monk.” This is no wonder, because the words “a whole life” hide behind honey and monk. Tomorrow when I say goodbye, what would he do if I really call him that? Well, now the monk has a name, what about me? What would he call me? It wouldn’t be “the sword guest” (he noticed that the monk saw his sword at once), would it?[Read more]
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Wang Zengqi (1920–1997) is well known in China for his short stories and essays, though his work has been little translated. His writing had two peak periods: the 1940s (before the Communist era) and 1980s (after the Cultural Revolution). During the last two decades of his life he was pivotal in reestablishing the value of culturally rich language after years of politically conformant literature in China. “Revenge” is Wang’s earliest known story and one of the first in Chinese to use the stream-of-consciousness style.
Xujun Eberlein has lived half a life each in China and the United States. Author of the story collection Apologies Forthcoming (Livingston Press, 2008), winner of the Tartts First Fiction Award, she writes and translates from Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Agni, Asia Literary Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Night Train, Post Road, Prism International, StoryQuarterly, and elsewhere. She received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship, and her personal essays have been recognized in The Best American Essays and The Pushcart Prize. She is currently finishing a memoir set in China.