Learning Cantonese: A Tuen Mun Love Story . . .

Beyond the Dream is a novel by the Hong Kong writer 蔣曉薇 Jéung2 Híu2 Mèih4. The thing that first got me interested in it was the setting: there aren’t too many books in any language set in the new town of 屯門 Tuen Mun! To me the place evokes a discordant mix: the concrete river channel that splits the town geometrically in two, the massive architecture of the MTR stations, both at Siu Hong and the terminus, the incessant traffic streaming down the vast Tuen Mun road, the shuttling, metal clatter of the light-rail trains, and towering over it all in the distance, the jagged green ridge of the Tsing Shan Mountain (Castle Peak).

In this 4-minute video put together by 文化者 The Culturist and 網上閲讀平台 the SHKP Reading Club, Jeung gives us some insight into the themes of the book, its two main characters, the young woman 葉嵐 Yihp6 Làahm4 (嵐 means “haze; vapour; mist”) and 阿樂 Aa3 Lohk6, and its subsequent transformation into a very successful film. The Chinese title 《幻愛》 is much more interesting than the English version: to me it suggests a kind of hallucinated love, the word echoing 幻想 “fantasy” (literally, “an unreal thinking”) and 幻聽 “hearing voices” (“an unreal hearing”). You can see how it might have defeated even the most determined translator . . .

The Cantonese highlight in this video is an example of the verb 㧬 [ng]úng2 = “push forward with both hands or body” — you don’t hear it that often, so every encounter is a treat! My trusty 《香港粵語大詞典》 gives two examples of its use, 㧬開度門 = to push open the door, and 㧬㧬去 = (roughly) to push and shove one another. Other treats include the word 鎅 gaai3, used both as a verb meaning “to cut” and in the compound noun 鎅刀, a kind of small knife, somewhat like a Stanley knife (at least, in some contexts); 抌 dám2, a verb with a number of meanings including “to throw away (rubbish)”; and the very Cantonese 第時 daih6 sìh4 = “in the future, another day”. Jeung also reads a passage from her novel at the 2-minute mark. Learning to understand Standard Written Chinese read aloud in Cantonese is a real challenge, and any opportunity to work on this (uneasily mastered) skill is worth taking.

You can watch the video here (Chinese subtitles only). If you want to take a look at the (rough in places) transcription, notes and English translation, please scroll down.

And if you would like to take a look at the trailer for the film with English subtitles, you can view that here.

And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary. You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.

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蔣曉薇:呢個好糾結内心世界係 | 啫,係我去寫嘅時候我自己都覺得痛呀

● 糾結 gáu2 git3 = to entangle; to tangle together; to be in a knot

Jeung Hiu-mei: This tangled-up inner world is one that give me pain myself when I set out to write [about it].

Caption: 幻愛 | 小説作者 | 蔣曉薇 Beyond the Dream | Fiction Writer | Jeung Hiu-mei

我覺得電影其實都係主要係阿樂嘅視點嘅 | 去到我自己作爲創作嘅時候呢 | 我覺得,呃,葉嵐呢個角色呢 | 喺個電影度仲有好多發揮嘅空間 | 可能係因爲自己係女性 [㗎嘛] | 我係好容易去代入到女性嘅角度同埋視點去寫 | 好多時候,葉嵐嘅内心世界 | 佢,佢嘅過去係點樣成長㗎 | 佢同媽媽之間嗰個命運嘅連擊係點樣㗎 | 呢度我係花咗啲心思去,去諗啦,去構思啦【1:00】

● 視點 sih6 dím2 = perspective | ● 發揮嘅空間 faat3 fāi1 ge3 hūng1 gāan1 = (?) room to give free play to | ● 代入 doih6 yahp6 = (?) to put oneself into the shoes of another person | ● 連繫lìhn4 haih6 = (?) connection; link | ● 心思 sām1 sī1 = ① thought; idea ② state of mind; mood | ● 構思 kau3 sī1 = (of a writer) work out the plot of a literary work

It is my feeling that the film is in fact mainly [from] the perspective of Ah Lok. To me, as the creator [去到我自己作爲創作嘅時候呢], I think that in the role of Yip Lam there is still plenty of room in the film for development [發揮嘅空間]. Perhaps because I am a woman too, it is very easy for me to insert myself when I write into a female role and perspective. I spent a lot of time thinking about and plotting Yip Lam’s inner world — what her past was like when she was growing up, and what kind of destiny linked her and her mother together.

噉我記得喺電影裏面呢,有一幕呢,就係 | 葉嵐同阿樂呢,就喺屋企樓下撞到 Uncle Wong | 然後佢哋就觸發咗一個衝突 [喇] | 就係葉嵐,呃,啫,覺得自己好 . . .  [佢] 嘅過去好不濟好不堪 | 佢覺得自己好唔配得,呃,阿樂嘅愛 | 然後佢就㧬咗阿樂出,呃,屋企嘅 | 噉然後葉嵐瞓到半夜嘅時候就扎醒咗 | 然後佢就望住手上面嗰條紅繩 | 就,呃,鎅刀鎅,鎅斷佢 | 然後抌咗落垃圾桶 | 啫,呢一幕,呃,可能係好短 | 大概十秒八秒咁樣呢 | 噉但係,啫,我都要一個,賦予佢一個心理狀態,就係 | 佢做乜醒咗之後係要做呢件事 [嘅] 呢,咁 | 噉我就寫咗喺書裏面嘅【2:00】

● 一幕 yāt1 mohk6 = an act (in a play); perhaps here “a scene (in a film)” | ● 屋企樓下 [ng]ūk1 kéi5*2 làuh4 haah6 = lit. “downstairs of one’s home”, but in the case of a housing estate probably “outside the building one lives in” | ● 撞到 johng6 dóu3*2 = to bump into; to encounter | ● 觸發 jūk1 faat3 = to spark; to trigger | ● 不濟 bāt1 jai3 = useless | ● 不堪 bāt1 hām1 = cannot bear; unbearably; cannot stand; “have had it up to here” | ● 好唔配得阿樂嘅愛 hóu2 mh4 pui3 dāk1 Aa3 Lohk6  ge3 [ng]oi3 = not at all worthy of Ah Lok’s love  | ● 㧬 úng2 = push forward with both hands or body | ● 扎醒 jaat3 séng2 = wake up suddenly; wake up with a start; startle from sleep | ● 紅繩 hùhng4 síng4*2= a red cord/string | ● 鎅刀 gaai3 dōu1 = a knife blade, a razor blade; a paper cutter | ● dám2 = ① beat (with fist); bang; pound ② smash; shatter; stamp (a chop) ③ throw; discard; abandon | ● 賦予 fu3 yúh5 = to bestow on; to endow with; to vest with

I remember that there is a scene in the film in which Yip Lam and Ah Lok bump into Uncle Wong outside the building she lives in [屋企樓下], which sets off conflict between the pair. Yip Lam feels that she is quite . . . // in the past she was both useless and fed up [過去好不濟好不堪]. She felt that she was quite unworthy of Ah Lok’s love for her. After that, she pushes Ah Lok out of her house. After that, she suddenly wakes up at midnight and, seeing the red cord on her wrist, picks up a knife, cuts the cord and throws it in the rubbish bin. This scene may be quite brief, lasting around 8 to 10 seconds, but in it I invest her with [a certain] psychological state. Why it is that she wakes up and does this is something I wrote about in the book.

最教她無法原諒的 | 是母親任憑自己的男朋友 | 隨便進出她們的家裏 | 任由他們隨便在自己女兒的身上摸 | 並沒有及時出來保護她 | 當 Uncle Wong 的事被母親揭發 | 她以爲自己有救了 | 母親卻是狠狠地摑了她一巴掌 | 葉嵐不斷哭著 | 不是,不是這樣的 | 但母親卻不容她解釋 | 直罵她的祖宗 | 罵她的基因 | 罵她生來就注定是個便宜貨 | 她跪在地上看著母親的眼神 | 那裏只有暴戾與嫉妒 | 再沒有關懷、真誠與愛 | 佢諗返呢個過去 | 佢 [都係] 覺得佢無辦法原諒媽媽 | 所以佢就用鎅刀鎅咗嗰條手繩仔 | 媽媽答應佢同佢祈福,就係 | 第時佢哋將來會過好日子嘅一個承諾 【3:00】

● 任憑 yahm6 pàhng4 = at one’s convenience; at one’s discretion | ● 任由 yahm6 yauh4 = to allow sb. free reign; jumping over; ignoring | ● 摑 gwaak3 = to slap; to smack | ● 暴戾 bouh6 leuih6 = ruthless & tyrannical; cruel & fierce | ● 嫉妒 jaht6 dou3 = to be jealous; to envy | ● 第時 daih6 sìh4 = in the future, another day

“What she found most difficult to forgive was that her mother let her boy-friends come and go as they pleased, and put up with their touching her whenever they felt like it, never appearing in time to protect her. When her mother found out about her and Uncle Wong, she thought she would be saved, but instead her mother slapped her hard. Weeping, Yip Lam kept repeating, no, no, it’s not what you think, but her mother had no time for her explanations, cursing her ancestors, her genes, cursing that fact that she gave birth [to a child] who was destined to become cheap goods. She knelt down on the ground and looked into her mother’s eyes, but all she saw there was cruelty and jealousy. There was no more care, sincerity or love.” She thinks back over her past, and also thinks that she cannot forgive her mother. And so, she takes the knife and cuts the cord on her wrist. Her mother accepts Yip Lam’s (?) promise to pray for her, and for a future in which they can live together happily (I am not sure if I have understood this sentence correctly).

好多,呃,影迷係好錫,呃,《幻愛》呢套戯 | 噉啊因爲疫情嘅緣故呢 | 呃,啫,戲院唔開 [喇] | 噉大家得入戲院去支持啦 | 呃,知道大家係好失望啦 | 或者係好著急嘅 | 好想戲院快啲開 | 就繼續可以支持導演 | 支持成個《幻愛》嘅團隊 | 噉嗯噉我諗《幻愛》團隊除咗電影之外 | 都包括,呃,小説創作嘅一部分嘅 | 噉大家都可以,呃,花啲時間去閲讀小説嘅 | 我覺得都係一個,一個思考嚟㗎 | 你睇完之後可以之後將佢 *jeui 同電影做返一個對讀對比 | 都係一個有趣嘅經驗 [呀]

● 影迷 yíng2 màih4 = film fan | ● 緣故 yùhn4 gu3 = cause; reason | ● 著急 jeuhk6 gāp1 = to worry; to feel anxious | ● 導演 douh6 yín2 = ① to direct (a film, a [play, etc.] ② a director | ● 團隊 tyùhn4 déui6*2 = a team; perhaps in this film context, “a crew” | ● 思考 sī1 háau2 = to think deeply; to ponder over; to reflect on | ● 對讀對比deui3 duhk6 deui3 béi2 = (?) to compare and contrast the book with the film

Many film buffs are very fond of the movie Beyond the Dream. Owing to the Covid-19 situation, cinemas are not open. No one can get into a picture theatre to show their support. I know that everyone is very disappointed about this, or worried, and hopes that the cinemas reopen soon so that they can continue to be able to support the director, and support the whole crew of Beyond the Dream. Apart from the film [side of things], I think that the crew for Beyond the Dream also includes the creation of the novel, [so] everyone can spend some time reading the book. My sense is that this reading is also a kind of deep thinking about things. When you’ve finished the novel, you can make a comparison with the film version — another interesting experience.

探訪:張美珠 Jēung1 Méih5 Jyū1  | 攝影、剪接:陳昶達 Chàhn4 Chóng2 Daaht6 (Note: 昶 chóng2 = long day)

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