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  • Writer's picturePeter K F Cheung SBS

James Joyce

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

  1. FADE IN.

  2. Act 1


  4. Waking up, PETER sees and reads phone notifications from the Quora App.

  5. PETER (V.O.): What is this? Why has the Chinese translation of Finnegan's Wake become so popular in China? What's Finnegan's Wake?

  6. Peter surfs the web and reads.

  7. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I see, it's the last difficult and experimental work of James Joyce.


  9. INT. CLASSROOM - DAY (1972)

  10. A novel in hand, a female TEACHER (20s) with long hair teaches six to seven STUDENTS, including Peter (17).

  11. TEACHER: Many authors use the technique of stream of consciousness or interior monologues in their narratives eg James Joyce...

  12. PETER (V.O.): Stream of consciousness...yes, I'm having it. Is the author a man or a woman?

  13. Peter continues to listen to his teacher.

  14. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): He has written the Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man and ...what? Ulysses? Anyway, I don't have to be examined in his works.


  16. Peter reads on, including some extracts of the work.

  17. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Am I reading English? I don't get it. Why did he write in such an unconventional way? Playing on his mother tongue?

  18. Peter reads on.

  19. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Oh, it's his intended way of insuring his "immortality"! He wanted to keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what he meant!

  20. Pausing.

  21. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Well, if the messages aren't understood, they're just literally "ink on paper" as there's no communication. Why was he so sure that professors would dwell on his puzzles?

  22. Reflecting.

  23. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Are his fictional plots and characters worth remembering? Has he got any universal truths? Has he led an exemplary life? Anyway, I've a feel about the modernist's literary style.

  24. As he puts aside his phone, Peter's still thinking.

  25. Act 2


  27. Still dark. Peter wakes up.

  28. PETER (V.O.): It didn't take long for me to fall asleep last night. Perhaps I've slept enough. What should I do?

  29. Grabbing his phone, Peter remembers something.

  30. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): The Quora question request on Finnegan's Wake is still in my mind. My questions are: Is it worth to translate it into Chinese? How can it be translated well?

  31. Pondering.

  32. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): It's also intriguing to me that the Chinese translation of Finnegan's Wake is said to have become very popular in China...Why would modern practical Chinese be interested in the unawakened nightmare of an Irishman of the last century? Let me check how true it is.

  33. Peter gets up and uses his phone to surf the web.

  34. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I see, BBC reports the phenomenon back in 2013...But that was then. No other recent reports.

  35. Peter continues to surf the web and we see Chinese words appearing on the screen.

  36. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): The same in the Chinese platforms, there wasn't any special coverage after the initial issuance of the translated work to the public.

  37. Peter taps other tags and reads.

  38. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): It was trendy to translate foreign works into Chinese from the 1990s. It seems there's demand from a market segment.

  39. Pausing.

  40. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): But the Chinese translation has simplified the work to bring out the plot and characters in a comprehensible manner. Is it an affordable loss in literary translation?

  41. Pondering.

  42. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): As to the Chinese translation's popularity, perhaps, people, particularly scholars, are just as curious as me about the literary style of James Joyce. As the author says, mistakes are the portals of discovery.

  43. Pausing.

  44. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): As a person interested in English-Chinese, and Chinese-English translations, I know how difficult it is to maintain the integrity of works. When I translate my own works, often bilingual lyrics, I can feel the inevitable loss in translation.

  45. Pausing.

  46. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): And I've never read others' translated works in full.

  47. Peter taps on the phone screen the tag James Joyce and reads.

  48. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Oh James Joyce died at the age of 58...and I've only just begun to write my heart at the age of 60...

  49. Act 3


  51. PETER (V.O.): Since I have already researched the topic and have my observations, I might as well share that to the public by answering the requested question.


  53. Peter begins to type on his phone.

  54. PETER (V.O.): I studied English Literature before I got a full-time job. And now, after ending my full-time job, I re-engage myself somewhat in literature again.

  55. Pausing.

  56. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Is literary appreciation a never-ending process? So enjoyable that we like repeats after repeats?

  57. Pondering.

  58. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): All good things must come to an end, otherwise they wouldn't be good. What is significant isn't anyone's immortality, but everyone's pursuit to make love last on earth!

  59. FADE OUT.

  60. THE END.

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