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(2011-01-10 10:18:51)







分类: 胡译赏析


                                   A Year without Made in China

Sara Bongiorni



                                                                     胡宗锋  苦 丁  (译)


Farewell, My Concubine



There are upsides to living without China. On a rainy afternoon at Target Kevin reluctantly returns a whoopee cushion to the dollar bin after taking a quick peek at its label. He pokes around in a couple of other bins, then turns away empty-handed.We are locked out of a huge segment of the market for what may be generously described as junk. No more pointy plastic dinosaurs, inch-tall construction workers, or neon-colored pool toys.We will have to make do with our current supply of those items.

生活中没有“中国“也是有好处的。一个雨天的下午,凯文在塔吉特的一家柜台看到一个屁声垫(人一坐上去就发出屁声的搞笑坐垫——译者注),但看了一眼上面的的标签又不情愿的放下了。他又转了好几家其它柜台,结果离开时还是两手空空。我们与市场的大部分东西无缘了,这些东西人们也许慷慨地认为是垃圾。 没有了尖头的塑料恐龙、一英寸高的建筑工和霓虹色的游泳池玩具,我们不得不靠现有的东西来凑合了。

Still, there are hazards to a ban on Chinese goods, including social ones.

My sister-in-law calls in a panic one evening after she realizes the cheerfully wrapped box she left on our doorstep after Wes had minor surgery contains two Chinese-made Mattel motorcycles.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” she says.“I am so sorry. I didn’t look where they came from. I completely forgot. Do you want me to return them for something else?”

Our neighbor stops by later with a box of get-well candy. 

“It’s from New Jersey,” she says as she hands me the package. “I checked the label.”






I am horrified. I had flattered myself in thinking that I’d kept my self-congratulations to myself. Here is evidence to the contrary. I was so busy thinking about what we have been doing, which is not buying Chinese things, that I lost sight of what everybody around me has been up to, which is buying Chinese things. In laying out ground rules for the year, I had forgotten all about gifts, a crucial pipeline of Chinese products pouring into our house.


For once, I am fast on my feet.

 “You don’t have to pay attention to labels,” I tell my sister-in-law. “Expecting you to avoid buying from China just because we’re doing it would be like me going vegetarian and expecting everybody else to do the same. It’s our project, not yours.We’re not going to tell anybody else what to do.”

“But don’t you want to keep Chinese things out of the house?” she asks.“Let me take the motorcycles back.I’ll find something else.”




Me and my big mouth.

“You don’t need to do anything differently,” I say.

“Are you sure?” she asks me, about five times. “I can take them back, you know. It’s no trouble. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

I repeat my assurances, but she’s still apologizing when we hang up the phone.

I tell our neighbor the same thing, but she’s not buying it either.

“We don’t want to be known as the ones who spoiled your experiment,”she tells me.








I am not done offending people. A couple of days later, while waiting at the counter to pay for lunch at a small cafe, the owner gestures toward a new display of Mardi Gras–themed jewelry. I finger the rows of earrings and bracelets. I slip a pair of earrings off the rack to take a closer look. I turn them over in my hand and peer at the label on the plastic backing.


“Aren’t they just adorable?” the owner asks me.

I nod, and then I do something unwise, something I know better than to do. I open my mouth.

“It’s too bad I can’t buy them,” I say with an air of regret as I return the earrings to the rack. “You see, this year I’m not buying anything from China. It’s my New Year’s resolution. Maybe next year I’ll buy some.”

She narrows her eyes at me.

“Well, then how are all those three-year-olds in China going to survive if people like you won’t help them out?”






I can’t tell if she’s joking. I decide I don’t want to find out. I give her a Mona Lisa smile to indicate I get her gist, although I do not, then sheepishly pay for my lunch and slink to a table. It hadn’t occurred to me that shopkeepers who deal in Chinese wares (and I assume that’s just about all of them) are unlikely to appreciate my project, with its tone of implied superiority. I can’t stand a tone of implied superiority. I thought my encounter with Mrs. Smedley had cured me of my self-infatuation, but I see now that embers of insufferability glow within me.


My mother whispers in my ear as I hunch alone over my plate.

You know what goes before a fall, my phantom mother says.

Don’t remind me, Mother. Pride. It’s tripped me up a million times. 

So what are you going to do about it? she wants to know. 

I am going to learn to keep my mouth closed. I am going to avoid Chinese merchandise and I am going to keep the fact that I am avoiding Chinese merchandise to myself. I am going to go quietly about my business like any decent citizen and I am not going to rub anybody’s nose in anything. I am going to take my top lip, press it to my bottom lip, and keep it there until next January 1.







The jewelry store that we visit at dusk on a rainy Friday sits in a strip mall off a busy highway on the outskirts of town. A husband-and-wife team of Vietnamese immigrants runs the store. They sell elaborate jewelry, much of it made on-site, knockoff Gucci purses, and miniature motorcycles that I believe are illegal to drive on the streets. It’s not so much a jewelry store as a gold, handbag, and motorbike outlet. It’s my first trip to the place. I like it immediately.


We are not in the market for jewelry, purses, or unconventional forms of transportation.We are here on an unglamorous mission to replace the batteries in three watches. I say hello to the shopkeeper, then hand him the watches and ask if he can replace the batteries. He disappears into the back room.


“You need a new strap?” he asks when he returns a few minutes later. He holds up my watch, whose leather band has split in two. He gestures toward the display case at the front of the store and I wander over to take a look. He opens the case so I can see better. I have just picked out a replacement strap when Kevin sidles up and clears his throat.

“Did you look where they are made?” he asks.




The shopkeeper and I look at him blankly.Then I grimace and turn over the box that holds the strap. I shrink as I read the words, Made in China. Then I look at the shopkeeper, who is smiling at me with kind, worried eyes.I freeze up.A couple of seconds tick by.Then I blurt out a confession and tell the shopkeeper about the boycott.We are late into the sales transaction, and I can’t think what else to do. He starts to laugh.


“Yes, you are right, everything is from China,” he says. He tells us he’s noticed that Vietnam also is saturated with Chinese goods.

“When I go home it’s everywhere you look,” he adds. “China, China, China.”

We pay for the batteries and head out into the rain.As we make our way across the wet parking lot, Kevin apologizes for butting in.

“I just thought you’d better check the strap,” he says.





“Are you kidding? I’m glad you reminded me,” I say.“It would have been worse to have to drive back later and explain why I was returning it.” We settle into the car and Kevin backs out of our space. Then I think of something else.“Did you happen to ask where the watch batteries are from?” I ask.

Kevin shakes his head.

“I thought about that, but I didn’t want to sound like a jerk,” he says.






No matter, I think. I will call the store later, after I come up with a way to ask about the origins of the batteries that doesn’t sound ridiculous. It may take some doing, but I’ll come up with something. And maybe we’ll get lucky. Maybe they will be from Poland or Mexico, or even America. Batteries seem American, I tell myself, in a way that video games seem Chinese. No worries. I’ll sort it out later.


As Kevin accelerates into traffic, I take a look at his profile. Handsome as a movie star and devoted to the China boycott. What more could you ask for? It was cruel of me to dub him the Weakest Link, even if I kept it to myself.

I sit back in my seat and turn to gaze at the streets silver with rain. I don’t know what I was so worried about.A China boycott had seemed like such a big deal before we got started, but there’s nothing to it, really. You check the labels, you say no, thank you. Everybody smiles and nods. One month down. Eleven to go.

Piece of cake.






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