Suicide follows hard life as a translator

By Xing Yi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-09-03 07:26:16

Suicide follows hard life as a translator

Translator Sun Zhongxu [Photo/IC]

Suicide follows hard life as a translator

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The suicide of Sun Zhongxu, the Chinese translator of JD Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and George Orwell's 1984, has sparked discussions over its causes among his fans.

According to media reports, people close to Sun's family and sources from the publishing industry say Sun, 41, took his life on Aug 28 in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province, after a long struggle with depression.

There were early signs of a sensitive, tragic life as Sun had admitted in previous interviews that the story of troubled American teenager Holden Caulfield had greatly influenced his life, describing it as "the book that led me to the road of translation".

Sun said he was emotionally involved and cried when he translated 1984. He compared his love for translation to an addiction that was hard to get over. But some fans believe that a poor, struggling life as a prolific part-time translator could have contributed to his depression.

Zhao Deming, a professor and translator of the Spanish language at Peking University, told reporters that the rate for translation remained unchanged for decades, and while literary works usually take years to translate, the average income for a translator is as low as 1,000 yuan ($170) per month - hardly enough to make a living.

The Chengdu Economic Daily quoted anonymous sources at publishing houses as saying that the going rate for English-Chinese translation could range from 40 to 80 yuan per 1,000 words.

Fans have found the evidence of a life of struggle in Sun's posts on social media.

In one blog posting in 2013, Sun writes, "I said to Mickey: 'My son, There are 4 million words' translation in my computer, and if something happens to me, this is my literary heritage for you. If you manage them well, you can build a bungalow in our hometown and get yourself a wife.'"

His son asked: "But why does it have to be in our hometown instead of here in Guangzhou?"

The reply: "Because it can only buy a toilet here, and your future wife would run away."

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