I finally met Chunming not long after I began teaching at San Francisco State University. Huang, a free spirit like his father (who had come to the US without knowing English and opened a Chinese restaurant somewhere in the Midwest), was traveling around the States in a beat-up, uninsured car he would later abandon when it crapped out on him. We had corresponded briefly, through the good offices of Nancy Ing, so he simply showed up at my flat one day, and that was the beginning of our friendship. I don’t know what we talked about, other than his stories, several of which I had read and was interested in translating; I’m sure he regaled me with his storytelling talent. He would pepper his Mandarin, which I understood, with Taiwanese, which I didn’t, and yet I would always know what he was saying. That talent has stayed with him over the years, and he has become, in my view, the archetype of a speaker of the hybrid language—a mixture of the two languages, with a smattering of English or Japanese—that is contemporary Taiwan’s lingua franca.
It’s quite a story, and makes me miss Taipei terribly; how I’d love to pop into the Astoria (founded by Russian emigres in 1949) for a pastry and coffee!
The rest of the issue looks well worth investigating, too; there’s another piece on translation in which “An author interviews his translator.” Thanks, Bathrobe!