[translation] The Chinese Restaurant

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 § 0

I've posted a translation, by yours truly, of a humorous short story by Sanmao (三毛), a famous Taiwanese writer (links go to English/Chinese biographies).  She lived an exciting life, albeit one that ended in tragedy, and she wrote about a lot of it in clear, clever prose.  This short story, "The Chinese Restaurant In The Middle Of The Desert," comes from a time that she was living with her husband, Jose, in what is now the Western Sahara.  An excerpt:

The first course I made was chicken soup with vermicelli. Whenever Jose came home he'd always yell "get something going, I'm starving!" In the end, the sole result of his years of devotion was a daily demand for food without even a glance towards his beloved spouse -- though this did mean that I didn't need to trouble myself over any possible loss of looks after matrimony. Anyway, as I was saying, the first thing I made was chicken vermicelli soup. He drank some and said, "Huh, what is this? Chinese noodles?"

"Would your mother-in-law mail noodles from so far away? Of course not."

"What is it? Give me some more, it's great."

I picked some up with chopsticks. "This here is called 'rain.'"

"Rain?" He looked at me blankly.

Like I said, my philosophy is to pretty much do as I like in marriage, so I just said whatever inspired me and came to mind. "See, these are formed from the first rains in spring that fall in the high mountaintops and freeze there. People who live there pick the rain and carry it down the mountains in bundles and trade it for rice wine. It's not that easy to buy, you know!"

Jose stared at me blankly some more. Then he peered at me, then at the "rain," and said, "Do you take me for an idiot?"

I kept my face blank. "Do you want some more or not?"

"Yes I do, you goddamn liar."

Since then he's eaten quite a bit of "rain," and I still think he has no idea what it is. Sometimes I ponder to myself that Jose is kind of dumb, and that does make me a bit sad.

You can read the rest of "The Chinese Restaurant In The Middle Of The Desert" (2300 words) here.  If you catch any mistakes or have any comments, please feel free to comment and let me know.  Thank you for reading!

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