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The Liberty Coerced By Limitation: On Subtitling Fengming: A Chinese Memoir

AKIYAMA Tamako Translator: MA Ran


This essay steps into the long history of translation theory, which is replete with examples of translators contemplating their own work of transporting a text from one language to another and deploying metaphors to theorize the task of the translator. The author, a student of Chinese aesthetics and contemporary philosophy, is also a veteran subtitler. In this essay, she describes her own subtitling ofWang Bing’s Fengming: A Chinese Memoir. She begins with a common observation about film translation: Facing extreme limitations in space and time, subtitlers often mourn the many limitations with which they must contend and look with envy at the translators of literature, who appear so free. But the strictures of subtitling can also produce a certain kind of freedom. Akiyama’s essay uses the subtitles for Fengming to illustrate the liberatory possibilities hidden within the act of translation.