A photo of Dong Leshan [Photo provided by bisu.edu.cn]
Born on Nov 14, 1924 to a businessman's family in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, Dong Leshan (1924-1999) was a famous translator, writer and researcher of American cultural studies.
He once compared himself to the rebellious character Juehui in the novel The Family written by Ba Jin, one of China's most acclaimed writers. He was talented and had a strong patriotic streak.
In 1942, Dong was admitted to the Department of English Literature of St. John's University in Shanghai, majoring in English literature. At about the age of 20, he rose to prominence under the pseudonym Mei Ye and became well-known in Shanghai theater.
Since 1950, he had served as a translator and reviewer for Xinhua News Agency, teacher at Beijing International Studies University, researcher at the Institute of the American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and director of the American Department at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He made outstanding achievements in the field of translation and became a model among younger-generation translators. He died in Beijing on Jan 16, 1999, due to illness.
Becoming a master
Despite ups and downs in his life, Dong always persevered in writing and foreign language teaching for many years. "I sincerely love and hate translating throughout my life," he said.
He knew the joys and sorrows of translating. As a translator, he was rigorous and conscientious, with profound ideological connotations. He was a rare person with good faith and elegance, so he was known as "translator among translators".
Dong translated lots of masterpieces including Red Star over China, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (co-translated and edited with others), The Trial of Socrates, The Humanist Tradition in the West and Orwell's Essay Collection.
The book An English-Chinese Dictionary of American Trivia edited by Dong is an indispensable tool for readers and researchers who want to understand American society and culture.
Keep improving, dare to surpass
Dong won high praise in the academic and publishing circles for his attitude of excellence, rigor, conscientiousness, and courage.
When talking about translation experience with young people, Dong emphasized that in order to do a good job in literary translation, one must have a thorough understanding of the original text; second, on the premise of accurately expressing the original text, one must improve their Chinese expression ability; third, one must have knowledge in a variety of disciplines and social life.
In 1961, Dong led the translation of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. This work established Dong's reputation and it was used for teaching by the English departments of many universities.
His translation of Red Star over China, with its richer content, clearer explanation of issues and revisions that are more in line with historical facts, has created a huge impact on China. The book is deeply loved by readers as the most faithful version of the original work. The work has become a classic translation in Chinese history.
As the most famous dystopian metaphorical novel in the world, Nineteen Eighty-Four was translated into Chinese in 1979 by Dong. Because the print volume was small at that time, the translation was a rare commodity.
Nineteen Eighty-Four has brought great fame to Dong. He said that the translation of this book is an insistence of his belief as a socialist, just as he participated in the underground movement of the Communist Party of China when he was young. Thanks to Dong, Chinese readers did not fall too far in the global reading and understanding of this political metaphor.
At the end of 2008, in the selection of "30 books that have had the greatest impact on Chinese people's minds during the 30 years of reform and opening-up" held in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Glory and Dreams: A Narrative History of America (1932-1972) translated by Dong were on the list.