我与中国，倾听特贡奖得主的故事 | 韩裴：热爱是我的最大动力
Petko Todorov Hinov
Before I fell in love with the China and her literature and language, I was deeply attracted to our own Bulgarian poetry, folk tales, stories and legends. I spent my childhood was spent in a very small (by the Chinese standards) town in Central North Bulgaria — it was a calm and unassuming childhood in a small, well-protected environment which gave space for inner life and was graced by the beauty of our Bulgarian language and books of rich imagination. Since its early dawn, my spiritual life was kindled by the quest for beauty and meaning. Language and literature had become my kingdom since early childhood. At some point I learned about China, read Chinese fairy tales in Bulgarian translation.
Later I saw The Shaolin Temple and other films with the actress Ding Lan, who became a symbol of my romantic Chinese girl — love of my life. And the Chinese characters and calligraphy were at the core of my love for the Chinese language. After these came literature, and most of all: classical Chinese poetry. Of course, I should not exclude Chinese classical music, vocal and instrumental, and Chinese painting. It was a discovery that captivated my young imagination, a discovery of unparalleled beauty and harmony full of life. This was my world and I was destined to live in it.
Could you share with us your difficulties or funny stories in your work?
Generally speaking, the greatest difficulty for a Western reader of Chinese books (especially the classics) comes from the pattern of Chinese thinking which is almost entirely different from ours. Nominally, it is reflected in grammar and meanings, but in reality it is much deeper than that. Chinese literature uses a language that means a lot more than it says. To this we can add the long historical path of Chinese books. In order to enter this enigmatic realm of typically Chinese meanings and ways of expressing them, a Chinese scholar or translator needs many a year of slow, patient, methodical and fully devoted spiritual labour.
There is only one way of penetrating into the realm of Chinese culture: submersion (which in many cases means humble submission to quite a different mode of thinking). There is only one driving force to achieve that: love. Let me take the word translate in its primary meaning: to change from one place, state, form, or appearance to another — to transform. To study China and Chinese language and literature — this means to transform one’s linguistic consciousness, one’s way of thinking. All other difficulties in the process of understanding and translating are secondary to that and not worth mentioning.
As for what is interesting in my experience of translation: I should say, nothing is just interesting. Interesting is a superficial word. I would rather use: enchanting, fascinating, enthralling… And the thing is: the texts themselves. Once I begin the translation of a book, I am so immersed in it that I lost touch with “reality” and quit almost everything else. And it is impossible to disengage my entire mind and feelings from it before I finish its translation and editing and set it free as a bird – into the hands of the publishers. Of course, there is one condition: the book itself. Some books are a torture I would never touch. I would rather translate a book I love. Such as A Dream of Red Mansions, and so on.
What opportunities do you think the Belt and Road Initiative bring to both China and Bulgaria?
For me, China has always been a representation of wisdom and the civilised choice of peace over war and of culture over barbarianism. Our modern world desperately needs precisely these: peace and the refinement of culture. I am consoled by the fact that China pays so much attention to “small nations” such as ours, to our language, which has a long history, and, although considered as “small” (in number of speakers), represents a civilisation almost as old and traditions as rich as Chinese.
Bulgaria’s historical destiny has not been as happy as that of greater states of the West, but I dare say that the spiritual traditions and endowments we carry are of world value. That is why I cherish the belt-and-road strategy as a precious opportunity exactly for peace and culture to bring an end to an epoch of strife, dreadful contradictions and inert following of patterns and imported ideologies. China’s Belt and Road show us our own values in a light which only an ancient and wise civilisation could afford in a world of peevish immaturity and petty consumerism.
What suggestions do you have on deepening the communication between the two countries, and what is your next working plan?
From what I can observe, more and more young Bulgarians come to know and love China through its culture. Of all things I consider necessary to increase our cultural exchanges, two are the most valuable: books and arts. But in my opinion, we should get closer to the roots of our cultures, than to its far-protruding branches. Many modern works of literature and art are so much influenced by non-native traditions, ideologies and mentality, that I have fully embraced the idea that authentic Bulgarian and Chinese cultures should be given primacy in our exchanges.
The best reasons I could think of, are that when we approach each other’s cultures in their traditions and roots, we approach each other directly. When we approach each other by way of modern culture, we actually approach one another by proxy of Western culture which, in its popular version, has commercially permeated this planet. Rapprochement between China and Bulgaria for me means rediscovering and recovering our traditions and classical cultures.
Please share with us your joy of winning the award.
I feel exceptionally honoured by receiving this high award from the country I love and have loved since my childhood!
Although this honour is a reward for my humble efforts, the honours should go as well to the East-West Publishers, my family and especially to my native land, my hometown, my country and my people — the garden where my talents were sown, tended and grown. I want to use this exceptional moment to offer to all of them my deepest gratitude! For me personally, this award is also a source of inspiration for my future, and I hope, greater efforts to bring closer the two countries I love: Bulgaria and China. Such awards are China’s support for me, but, what is more: they show me that my love for China is shared and requited! Thank you very much!
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