Yau Ching is a filmmaker as well as poet, so it seemed appropriate we chose this poem set in the cinema for our translation session. The literal translator Chenxin Jiang began by telling us about the playful title which translates roughly as recognising (pronounced: ying) shadows/films (pronounced: ying). Should we also aim for a pun? Should we try and include
both the ideas of shadows and cinema? The solution only came near the very end, when one of the group told us that the word for cinema literally translates as ‘electric shadows’ – what a wonderful evocative phrase. And one that implies recognition – the shadows are charged, they have an energy and are perhaps even dangerous. There was also much discussion about the fumbling. The closest Chenxin Jiang could get to the original was ‘kneaded’ – she believed the line was meant to suggest teenagers grasping sweaty palms in the darkness. But we thought ‘kneaded’ sounded a bit too grossly sexual in the English (and also risked looking like a typo). Fumbling was as close as we could get to an
English expression that implied mutual, youthful touching!