2008 FEATURE ARTICLE


ERASING THE ARTISTRY

A comparative study of Hu Shi's translation of A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and the original Norwegian manuscript

Oda Fiskum, University of London

ABSTRACT


In June 1918, New Youth Magazine (Xin Qingnian) published a translation of one of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's most famous "Social Problem Plays," Et Dukkehjem (A Doll's House) entitled Nuola (Nora). This translation by Beijing University professor of philosophy Hu Shi marked the commencement of a period during which Ibsen profoundly influenced the development of spoken drama and vernacular literature in China. In this article, I compare Hu Shi's translation to the original Norwegian text. I find that the two versions diverge most notably on occasions where Ibsen's text is understated, or where the matter of female liberation becomes dubious. Through his phrasing, sentence structures, and commentary, Hu integrates a new political agenda into A Doll's House, the cost of which is often the artistry of Ibsen's language.

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