The last 40 chapters of 红楼梦 are now thought to be written by Gao E rather than Cao xueqin. Vol. 4 of the penguin translation is the first 20 of these chapters, (80-100). They also have a different translator. It's hard to say whether the different translator or the different editor/author makes a difference but this book has a much different feel to it.
The characters seem to act quite differently at times. There is also much less empahsis on the maids and much more emphasis on the men in the family. The basic plot of this volume involves Bai Yu loosing his jade and going insane so the family decide to marry him off to Baichai as a chance to regain his sanity. This is largely due to a few chapters earlier Dai Yu attempting to starve herself to death when she hears Bai Yu is going to marry someone else. And it is this bout of ill health that finally convinces everyone she'd not make a good wife. I thought her dying scenes were some of the strongest parts of the book. It was also interesting to see my two new favorites, Tan Chun and Li Wan were the two of the women that were there for her death.
The rest of the plots didn't seem to ammount to much. Xue Pan being arrested for murder again didn't seem quite as interesting as when this happened in the first volume. Likewise Baoyu's return to school wasn't as in depth. Xifeng seemed to hardly be around at all, sick for no reason, and just joking rather than controlling anything. I did however find it interesting when they had the nun perform spirit writing mediumship to find out what was wrong with Baoyu....Continua
Memorable moments from Vol. 3: Grandma Jia gives her speech about how songs aren't realistic because the young girls only have one maid. Xifeng becomes ill and the girls take over. The garden is divided up. 200 pages of mostly maids' stories. The singers are assigned as maids, love affairs, and cross dressing ensues. Baoyu has his birthday party where everyone gets drunk, Zheng dies and the story of Jie Er and Jie San. Interesting to see that it is only after Xifeng's miscarriage that her husband goes off in search of this "2nd wife". Hawkes mentions how the story of jie san seems thrown in from a different story about the monk with the magic mirror and messes up the chronology of the er jie story. Still it was interesting this time to get that the person she was in love with was the straight opera singer who'd beaten up Huan. I think he kinda deserved such misery. It's interesting to see how after this despite her best efforts, Xifeng starts to loose some of her credibility and power within the households. Whether this is due to the new concubines, the death of erjie or the fact that she was ill for so long after her miscarriage is hard to say. Time seems to be going quite quickly in this book, and on page 400 it's already "over a year" since the last meeting of the poetry club. I wish I could find a list of what was supposed to happen when and how old everyone is supposed to be as it can be quite confusing.
The last part of the book looks has Grandmother Jia's 80th birthday, and the Moon Festival, Dai Yu and Xiang yun composing poetry was great. I also loved how fiesty Tan Chun got towards the end. And I have to say I really enjoyed Bao-Yu's elegy for "Skybright". Xue pan and his wife were amusing, I realised that xue pan is so the normal leading character of novels, (such as jin ping mei) but here he is gently ridiculed for his behaviour instead.
It seemed like things were slowly starting to unravel and everyone was growing up and dying. The families were starting to become seperated and money was becoming more of an issue, and as Xifeng became less powerful the servants gained more freedom to cause trouble. It is a shame that the next 40 chapters were not successfully kept. But will start the next volume of this translation now.
紅樓夢 is my favorite novel, one of the reasons I'm learning Chinese is so that I can read it in the original. This translation however is not my favorite. The translator does some annoying things, writing for an audience that doesn't know Chinese culture he tends to remove or change a lot of the cultural references, which I find really annoying. One of the things I liked about the Yangs translation so much when I read this book the first time was all the things I learned about Chinese culture and history. Here Hawkes takes English or Japanese words and uses them a little too liberally, "The Lord" and "Yama" being two examples that spring to mind right away. He also makes the poetry rhyme, and it virtually becomes unreadable.
What I can say for this book is that he does stick quite closely to the original text. Having read passages from this volume, I had no trouble locating and reading the passages in my Chinese edition.
Vol. 1 contains the background of the stone, the Taoist and Buddhist monk, the building of the garden, Granny Liu's first visit, BaoYu and Xifeng being possessed by demon's and going insane, the cute gay boys at school, dreams set in the world of the immortals, and a lot of Xifeng being very capable....Continua