Update: Terry Pratchett in the Chinese World (#terrypratchett #pratchett #discworld)

Terry Pratchett, 2012. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Thanks to reader Geoff, who recently inquired how to access the Chinese editions of Terry Pratchett’s books in Australia at these unusual and uncertain times, I got to re-visit my article “Terry Pratchett in the Chinese World” written in September 2013. In that article I briefly covered the relatively late arrival of Pratchett in the Chinese World, mainly in Taiwan.

In my article, I also discussed how fantasy as a literary genre became popular in Taiwan only after the arrival of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in 1997, and how a refreshed Chinese translation of The Lord of the Rings in 2000 finally led to dedicated translation and promotion of a wide range of English-language fantasy writers, including but not limited to Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson and Rick Riordan. I pointed out (the already well-known fact) that film adaptations in the English World definitely help selling books in the Chinese World.

In terms of Pratchett’s books, it is necessary to explore the differences between their Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese editions. Because these are different territories in publishing terms, a great number of publishers and translators China (Simplified Chinese) and Taiwan (Traditional Chinese) have tried their hands on Pratchett’s books, each working in what they thought was the best way to introduce the author as an exceptionally great and funny author. The quality of each translation surely has considerable impact on how Pratchett is received by Chinese readers and reviewers. (Seriously: Pratchett even has two different names in Simplified Chinese [pronounced as “te-li pu-la-che-te”] and Traditional Chinese [pronounced as “tai-rui pu-lai-chi”].)

Terry Pratchett’s Chinese names

Problem is, it is not as simple as converting from Simplified Chinese to Traditional Chinese or the other way around, as there are significant cultural and even linguistic differences between the two territories. To begin to understand this, think of how a book in the West often has to be meticulously re-edited when it is published in the UK English and US English markets. Sometimes other things are changed as well, with a famous example being Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury, 1997) becoming Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Scholastic, 1998). (Indeed, Diagon Alley has different translations in Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.) Think of how the “boot” of a car in UK English is actually a “trunk” in US English, and what people in Australia and the UK know as “petrol” is called “gas” in America — make it 5 times worse and you get what I mean regarding the cultural and linguistic differences between China and Taiwan.

As a translator, I know FOR SURE that Pratchett’s books are difficult to translate. It is not just the language, whose cultural roots can be hard to decipher, but also the fantasy genre of the West that has hardly any foundation in the Chinese World. (Note: This DOES NOT mean the fantasy genre has no tradition in Chinese literature and culture.) An even more crucial factor is Pratchett’s peculiar sense of humour, which, like poetry, can be a formidable challenge to translators at all levels. In short, it is not impossible to translate Pratchett accurately, faithfully and gracefully – it is just extremely difficult to achieve all three goals at the same time.

So, it is not my intention here to analyse the quality of translation in the Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese editions of Pratchett’s books. (Such an analysis can be a PhD thesis and will surely bore our readers to death.) Instead, this article is simply an update on the promotion of Pratchett and his books in the Chinese World.

As of the writing of this article, a total of five subseries among Pratchett’s Discworld books – “Tiffany Aching”, “City Watch”, “Rincewind”, “Witches” and “Death” – have been translated into the Chinese Language.

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The “Tiffany Aching” Subseries

The “Tiffany Aching” books were the first to be introduced to the Chinese World. The Wee Free Man (2003) was published in Traditional Chinese in Taiwan in 2004, and its Chinese title literally means “Tiffany’s Journey ot Fantastic Dreams”. It was accompanied by The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001) as “A Strange Tale of Cat and Mice”, perhaps because the latter was the first of Pratchett’s books specifically written for young readers. Following these was A Hat Full of Sky (2004), published as “The Third Wish” in 2005. All three Traditional Chinese editions were produced by the same translator.

Meanwhile, all five “Tiffany Aching” books plus The Amazing Maurice have Simplified Chinese editions published in China. It is interesting that when People’s Literature Publishing House first published The Amazing Maurice and The Wee Free Man in 2005, each book received two different Chinese titles – the former as “The Young Pied Piper” and “Cat and the Young Pied Piper”, and the latter as “Little Free Man” and “Rebellious Little Elf”. A Hat Full of Sky was also published in 2005, as “The Sky in the Hat”.

Fast forward to 2017, when Shanghai’s Wenhui Press published all six books as a set, it highlighted the Discworld brand while referring to Tiffany Aching as an “apprentice witch”. The publisher acquired the 2005 translations of The Amazing Maurice and The Wee Free Man, but chose to rename the latter as “Apprentice Witch and the Little Free Man”. Furthermore, four different translators were appointed to translate A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith (2006), I Shall Wear Midnight (2010) and The Shepherd’s Crown (2015). These Simplified Chinese editions were also given interesting titles.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)2004: Traditional Chinese edition by Xie Qijun, published as “A Strange Tale of Cat and Mice” by Global Kids Books, Taiwan.
2005: Simplified Chinese edition by Zhou Li, published as “The Young Pied Piper” and “Cat and the Young Pied Piper” by People’s Literature Publishing House , China.
2007: Simplified Chinese edition by Zhou Li, published as “Discworld: Cat and the Young Pied Piper” by Wenhui Press, China.
The Wee Free Man (2003)2004: Traditional Chinese edition by Xie Qijun, published as “Tiffany’s Journey ot Fantastic Dreams” by Global Kids Books, Taiwan.
2005: Simplified Chinese edition by Yang Lingling, published as “Little Free Man” and “Rebellious Little Elf” by People’s Literature Publishing House, China.
2017: Simplified Chinese edition by Yang Lingling, published as “Discworld: Apprentice Witch and the Little Free Man” by Wenhui Press, China.
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)2005: Traditional Chinese edition by Xie Qijun, published as “The Third Wish” by Global Kids Books, Taiwan.
2005: Simplified Chinese edition by Lin Jing, published as “The Sky in the Hat” by People’s Literature Publishing House, China.
2017: Simplified Chinese edition by Yang Lingling, published as “Discworld: Apprentice Witch and the Empty Hat” by Wenhui Press.
Wintersmith (2006)2017: Simplified Chinese edition by Liu Mingze, published as “Apprentice Witch and the God of Winter” by Wenhui Press.
I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)2017: Simplified Chinese edition by Lin Jing & Zhang Yiqi, published as “Discworld: Apprentice Witch and the Gown of Midnight” by Wenhui Press.
The Shepherd’s Crown (2015)2017: Simplified Chinese edition by Zhang Yiqi, published as “Discworld: Apprentice Witch and the Crown” by Wenhui Press, China.
Covers of The Amazing Maurice. Left to right: First English edition 2001, Simplified Chinese edition 2017, and Traditional Chinese edition 2004.

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The “Rincewind” Subseries

The “Rincewind” books were introduced to the Chinese World in 2007, but only in China. In that year, Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House published The Colour of Magic (1983) and The Light Fantastic (1986) in Simplified Chinese. The books must have been received well enough for the publisher to proceed with the Simplified Chinese editions of Sourcery (1988) and Eric (1990) in 2012, which were combined as one volume under the Chinese title “The Great Magic”.

Then, in 2019, the same Simplified Chinese translations of The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Sourcery/Eric were acquired by Wenhui Press. These were published using the Discworld brand, with Rincewind referred to as the “Zero-Magic Wizard”.

In 2020, the same Simplified Chinese translations of The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Sourcery/Eric were acquired by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House. These were published as the first four books of the “FC Wizard” series. Eric finally got to exist as its own book under the curious Chinese title as “I Am Not Faust”. Meanwhile, The Light Fantastic and Soucery were also giving interesting Chinese titles.

Interestingly, when Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House skipped Interesting Times (1994), an independent translator picked it up and produced a Simplified Chinese translation of the book as “A Man in Chaos”. The translator was then appointed by the publisher to translate The Last Continent (1998) and Unseen Academicals (2009) into Simplified Chinese, which became #5 and #6 of the “FC Wizard” series. It is particularly amusing that the Chinese title of Unseen Academicals literally means “The Wizard Football Team”.

It is worth nothing here that “FC” refers to fei chai or “useless wood” in contemporary Chinese language. Originated from Cantonese, it is an insult when used to describe someone as such a loser or failure that they are like worthless wood, which can neither be used as building material nor be burned for heating. HOWEVER, TAKE CAUTION when you hear someone describing themselves as fei chai, as they are claiming to be an unpolished gem, something that appears useless but possesses immense potential. i.e. They are just biding their time until their great talents are recognised and put to good use.

The Colour of Magic (1983)2007: Simplified Chinese edition by Ma Shuang, published as “The Colour of Magic” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
2019: Simplified Chinese edition by Ma Shuang, published as “Discworld: The Zero-Magic Wizard” by Wenhui Press, China.
2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Ma Shuang, published as “FC Wizard” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
The Light Fantastic (1986)2007: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “The Fantastic Light” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
2019: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “Discworld: The Zero-Magic Wizard #2: The Runaway Curse” by Wenhui Press, China.
2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “FC Wizard #2: The Missing Curse” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Sourcery (1988)2012: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “The Great Magic” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
2019: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “Discworld: The Zero-Magic Wizard #3: The Origin of All Magic” by Wenhui Press, China.
2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “FC Wizard #3: The Origin of Magic” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Eric (1990)2012: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as part of “The Great Magic” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “FC Wizard #4: I Am Not Faust” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Interesting Times (1994)2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Feng Xiaomo, published as “A Man in Chaos” by L-Space Private Translation Workshop, China.
The Last Continent (1998)2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Feng Xiaomo, published as “FC Wizard #5: The Last Continent” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Unseen Academicals (2009)2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Feng Xiaomo, published as “FC Wizard #6: The Wizard Football Team” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Covers of the “Rincewind” books (except Interesting Times), Simplified Chinese editions 2020. Top left to right: The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Sourcery. Bottom left to right: Eric, The Last Continent and Unseen Academicals.

***

The “Witches” Subseries

The “Witches” books were introduced to the Chinese World in 2007, when the Simplified Chinese edition of Equal Rites (1987) was published as “Equal Rights” by China’s Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House. The publisher had previously dipped its toes in the “Tiffany Aching” and “Rincewind” books but never completed translating the two series. The same happened here, as Wyrd Sisters (1998) was the only other book from the “Witches” series that has a Simplified Chinese edition, as “The Witches’ Revenge” in 2016.

Equal Rites (1987)2007: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “Equal Rights” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
Wyrd Sisters (1988)2016: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “The Witches’ Revenge” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
Cover of Equal Rites, Simplified Chinese edition 2007.

***

The “Death” Series

Once again, the aforementioned Scichuan Science and Technology Publishing House was the first to introduce the “Death” books to the Chinese World in 2007, when it published the Simplified Chinese edition of Mort (1987) as “Apprentice Death”. And, once again, the publisher’s experiment with the series seemed to end right there.

Fast forward to 2020, when Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House acquired the Simplified Chinese translation of Mort and published it as the first book of the “Novice Death” series. At least this publisher had the good grace to complete the translation of the remaining “Death” books, including Reaper Man (1991), Soul Music (1994), Hogfather (1996) and Thief of Time (2001). These four Simplified Chinese editions were also published in 2020.

Mort (1987)2007: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “Apprentice Death” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “Novice Death” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Reaper Man (1991)2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Liang Yuhan, published as “Novice Death #2: “Reaper of Souls” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Soul Music (1994)2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Cai Weiwei, published as “Novice Death #3: The Rock’n’Roll Band” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Hogfather (1996)2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Wang Shuang, published as “Novice Death #4: Rescuing the Good Old Dad” by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Thief of Time (2001)2020: Simplified Chinese edition by Wang Shuang, published by Henan Arts and Literature Publishing House, China.
Covers of the “Death” books, Simplified Chinese editions 2020. Top left to right: Mort and Thief of Time. Bottom left to right: Reaper Man, Hogfather and Soul Music.

***

The “City Watch” Series

The “City Watch” books arrived in the Chinese World relatively late. In 2012, Guards! Guards! (1989) was published in Traditional Chinese in Taiwan and in Simplified Chinese in China. It remains the only “City Watch” book with a Simplified Chinese edition.

Meanwhile, Solo, an imprint of Taiwan’s Eurasian Press, continued to publish Traditional Chinese editions of the remaining “City Watch” books. Men at Arms (1993) was published in 2013 and shared the same translator with Guards! Guards!. After that, a new translator was appointed to translate Feet of Clay (1996), Jingo (1997), The Fifth Elephant (1999), Night Watch (2002), Thud! (2005) and Snuff (2011), which were published in 2013 and 2014.

Note: To guarantee consistency in the quality of translation, the common approach is to have one translator handling all or at least most of the books in the same series. In the unusual situation that each of the books in the same series is translated by a different translator – as seen in the aforementioned case of the Simplified Chinese editions of the “Tiffany Aching” books – it is absolutely critical that a highly experienced editor takes charge of the whole project to ensure all the translators involved are capable of conforming to and even abiding by the same translation standards and styles.

Guards! Guards! (1989)2012: Traditional Chinese edition by Lu Mi, published as “Guards!” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
2012: Simplified Chinese edition by Hu Shu, published as “Guards! Guards!” by Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, China.
Men at Arms (1993)2013: Traditional Chinese edition by Lu Mi, published as “Debut of the No.1 Detective” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
Feet of Clay (1996)2013: Traditional Chinese edition by Zhang Jinwei, published as “More Than Meets the Eye” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
Jingo (1997)2013: Traditional Chinese edition by Zhang Jinwei, published as “Bring It On” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
The Fifth Elephant (1999)2014: Traditional Chinese edition by Zhang Jinwei, published as “The Fifth Elephant” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
Night Watch (2002)2014: Traditional Chinese edition byZhang Jinwei, published as “Chaotic Battle in Time and Space” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
Thud! (2005)2014: Traditional Chinese edition by Zhang Jinwei, published as “Bang! Bang! Bang!” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
Snuff (2011)2014: Traditional Chinese edition by Zhang Jinwei, publishefd as “Fated Not to Die” by Solo, an imprint of Eurasian Press, Taiwan.
Covers of the “City Watch” books, Traditional Chinese editions 2014. Top left to right: Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms and Feet of Clay. Middle left to right: Jingo,The Fifth Elephant and Night Watch. Bottom left to right:Thud! and Snuff.

***

One More Book

And, finally, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990) was introduced to the Chinese World in as early as 2008, when Muses Publishing House in Taiwan promoted the Traditional Chinese edition of the book together with that of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2001). The move made perfect sense, as Gaiman co-authored Good Omens,

The adaption of Good Omens as a TV series was first announced in January 2017. In September 2018, the book was introduced to China when its Simplified Chinese edition was published by Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House. Then, in May 2019, to coincide with the release of the first episode of the TV series starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, the aforementioned Traditional Chinese translation of the book was published with a different cover by Taiwan’s Ecus Publishing House.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990)2008: Traditional Chinese edition by Xie Jingwen, published as “Good Omens” by Muses Publishing House, Taiwan.
2018: Simplified Chinese edition by Ma Xiao, published as “Good Omens” by Jiangsu Literature and Arts Publishing House, China.
2019: Traditional Chinese edition by Xie Jingwen, published as “Good Omens” by Ecus Publishing House, Taiwan.
Covers of Good Omens. Left to right: Traditional Chinese edition 2008, Traditional Chinese edition 2019, and Simplified Chinese edition 2018.

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CONCLUSION

So, that is all that readers in the Chinese World have got to know about Pratchett and his numerous books. While some in the West may think more of the author’s Discworld books should be introduced to Taiwan, China and other Chinese communities across the world, the existing editions in Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese are not a bad selection at all. I hope this article can help Geoff and other readers who are interested in knowing more about Terry Pratchett and his books in the Chinese World.

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