Sidney Shapiro, translator, dies at 98

Shapiro was one of the few Westerners to gain Chinese citizenship and become a member of a high-level parliamentary body.

imagesSidney Shapiro, a famed U.S.-born translator who was one of the few Westerners to gain Chinese citizenship and become a member of a high-level parliamentary body, has died in Beijing, his granddaughter said. He was 98.

Shapiro was born in New York in 1915 and was selected by the U.S. Army to learn Chinese during World War II. He arrived in China in 1947, armed only with broken Chinese and $200 in cash.

He married a Chinese actress who was a supporter of the Communist Party, which at the time was fighting a civil war with the Nationalists, and did not visit the United States again until 1971.

He remained in China after the Communist revolution in 1949, when many Western foreigners left, and became a Chinese citizen in 1963 — an honor reserved for a select few foreigners judged to have performed special services for China.

Three years later, the Cultural Revolution began. “It was terrible,” Shapiro told Los Angeles Times. “The thing that kept me going was that it was so stupid and obviously wrong that it had to end any day.”

He was best known for his English translations of the Chinese classic novel “Outlaws of the Marsh,” as well as works by the more modern authors Ba Jin and Mao Dun.

“Translators like us have the responsibility to let the world know that China has the richest tradition of virtue,” he told the official Xinhua news agency in 2010, after being bestowed a lifetime achievement award by the Translators Association of China. […]

(From AlJazeera America, 20.10.2014)

 

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