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Yang Jingyuan: A storyteller of English literature

Author  :  Xiao Yi     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2016-02-16

Yang Jingyuan (1923-2015) was a famous translator. She served successively as a lecturer at Wuhan University, an editor of the People’s Publishing House and a senior editor at the Institute of Foreign Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). She translated The Bronte Story, Peter Pan and other English literary works into Chinese.

Yang Jingyuan’s father, Yang Ruiliu, was a well-known economist who contributed to establishing the discipline of economics in modern China, and her mother Yuan Changying was a writer. But Yang wasn’t influenced by her father as much as her mother, and preferred arts rather than science.

After graduating from the Department of English Literature at the University of Michigan in 1948, Yang came back to China. But, sadly, for 30 years, her job had nothing to do with literature. Between 1949 and 1979, she worked at the People’s Publishing House and barely had the chance to read any literary works.

Up until the end of the Cultural Revolution, Yang had planned to work in People’s Literature Publishing House, but tragically she missed the chance. She heard the Institute of Foreign Literature at CASS had recently set up the Office of Foreign Literary Material, so she joined the institute and finally realized her literary dream.

At the institute, Yang mainly worked on English and American literature. Besides editing, she had more free time to do research. She read dozens of books about the Bronte sisters and wrote Studies on the Bronte Sisters and Letters of Charlotte Bronte, which made her become a famous expert on the Bronte sisters in China.

However, she developed cataracts, which became an obstacle impeding her research. Her husband Yan Guozhu became her “eyes.” They decided to cooperate together to translate Yang’s favorite fairy tale Peter Pan. He read one sentence and she translated one sentence, and then he recorded it on paper. When Yang finished translating the whole piece, her husband read it to her and she proposed advice for revisions.

Editor: Yu Hui

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