Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Morning


We open the week with a "this just in," via the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog. It seems the editors of Max Planck Institute's journal, in Germany, wanted to grace their cover with something poetic--and hey, what could be more poetic than this graceful bit of chinoiserie?

Of course, it might have helped if someone at the Institute knew WTF the characters said. Quoth the Independent:

There were red faces on the editorial board of one of Germany's top scientific institutions, the Max Planck Institute, after it ran the text of a handbill for a Macau strip club on the front page of its latest journal. Editors had hoped to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover of a special issue, focusing on China, of the MaxPlanckForschung journal, but instead of poetry they ran a text effectively proclaiming "Hot Housewives in action!" on the front of the third-quarter edition. Their "enchanting and coquettish performance" was highly recommended.

The use of traditional Chinese characters and references to "the northern mainland" seem to indicate the text comes from Hong Kong or Macau, and it promises burlesque acts by pretty-as-jade housewives with hot bodies for the daytime visitor.

The Max Planck Institute was quick to acknowledge its error explaining that it had consulted a German sinologist prior to publication of the text. "To our sincere regret ... it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker," the institute said in an apology. "By publishing this text we did in no way intend to cause any offence or embarrassment to our Chinese readers. " (My emphasis.)

This seems to be a much more reputable site for Chinese poems, useful for teachers and such--it has the originals, a transliteration, a prose crib, and a sample verse translation. Ah, but what about those "deeper levels of meaning"?

3 comments:

Laura Vivanco said...

Since you've posted about other people's red faces, I'm assuming you and the rest of your family didn't spend the weekend with pale, miserable faces and upset stomachs. But maybe you're just tactfully drawing a veil over a weekend of nausea and infirmity?

E. M. Selinger said...

How kind of you to ask, Laura! Nathan spent most of Friday and Saturday asleep, recovering, and the rest of us stayed healthy. By Sunday he was, if not hale & hearty, at least up and about. I suspect this means that the illness was something he ate (bad pepperoni? food from school?) rather than a virus--for which we are all very grateful.

disa said...
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