Yesterday marked a significant day for Pacific writers and Chinese readers.
The occasion was the launch of the Chinese translation of the book, ‘Our Heritage the Ocean’ by Samoa’s diplomatic family from China, Ambassador Wang and Madam Tong Xin.
The original book, was compiled of the best stories from the 2015 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition - an idea and initiative of the Samoa Observer’s Editor in Chief, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa.
But it was Ambassador Wang and Madam Tong Xin, who took that book and were the translators, sub editors and proof readers of a new book for Chinese language readers.
This was a labour of love to painstakingly translate 16 stories from the book to further the understanding of the Pacific for Chinese readers.
To complete this family undertaking, their son Ange Wang, a student at New York State University drew on his visits to Samoa and illustrated the cover of the book with a beautiful painting of a simple Samoan fale on a beach
The idea of a translation was first voiced by the Ambassador and Madam Tong Xin at the launch of ‘Our Heritage, the Ocean’ in April 2016 at the Samoa Observer headquarters.
Over the next year, the couple read and reread the stories and in the process, learned more about culture, traditions and the issues which are important in the lives of people not only from Samoa, but also from other Pacific islands – the Cook Islands, Niue, American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.
Then began the long hours in the evenings after the day’s work, of translating each story with meticulous attention to detail, often consulting the book’s editor, Ms Stephanie Wynne to check and clarify the nuances and subtleties of language to remain as true as possible to the writers’ intent.
In doing so, Madam Tong Xin said that a fascinating picture began to take shape of a changing Pacific region grappling with the issues inherent in the modern world whilst interweaving understanding and formulating solutions from traditional teachings and beliefs.
Even when the manuscript was sent to the publisher in China, Ambassador Wang and Madam Tong Xin maintained a very ‘hands on’ approach to the editing and subsequent production of the book.
“My husband wanted the book to be perfect,” said Madam Tong Xin, “so there were edits and more edits.”
Ambassador Wang aware of the need to appeal to the reading population in China, made some alterations to some of the story titles which made the stories reader-friendly.
The response to this translated book of stories has already added a deeper understanding of the Pacific not only to Chinese academics where it has been gifted to universities, but also to readers whose Pacific knowledge has previously been narrowly based on information gleaned from the Internet or geographical books.
Already, the publication has received critical acclaim from universities and colleagues working in Foreign Affairs in China.
“One academic described it as ‘ground breaking’,” said Madam Tong Xin.
This was in terms of personal stories as opposed to official information.
Other readers she said, expressed surprise that similar life issues are faced by people worldwide.
“They were astonished that their lives (in a heavily populated nation) are not dissimilar to those of people living on small islands in the Pacific on the other side of the world.”
The launch was held at the Samoa Observer headquarters in Vaitele.