Add:Wanglou Village, Xiasha Town, Nanhui
Fu Lei (1908-66) was one of China’s greatest translators from French and a well-known art critic.
Thanks to Fu, many Chinese readers get familiar with the works of Voltaire, Balzac and Romain Rolland. It is said that without Fu, there would be no Balzac in China.
Fu was born into a wealthy family in Hangtou Town of the Pudong New Area, where he spent four years. That childhood home, now open to the public, was built in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It fell into disrepair and today only 200 square meters of the 762-square-meter original residence remain, according to researcher Wang Shuhua.
A new exhibition room displays original manuscripts and old photos of the translator.
Nearby is a small river and plans call for a dock for small vessels.
At a cost of 50 million yuan (US$8.2 million), the new structure have 36 rooms, like the original.
When Fu was four years old, his young father was persecuted and imprisoned; he would die in jail. Junior Fu, his mother, brothers and sisters left their home.
Their mother worked to support them, but she was so obsessed with reversing the unjust verdict against her husband that she neglected her children. Fu’s siblings died one after another.
Fu’s mother sold off pieces of the original property to finance Fu’s education. As a result, several people own the original property today, making the reconstruction project complicated, says Wang. Some asked very high prices or refused to move.
At the age of 18, Fu went to Paris to study, despite his mother’s bitter opposition. She only relented when he agreed to an arranged marriage with Zhu Meifu; they would eventually wed.
Fu studied art theory in France from 1928 to 1932 at the University of Paris. He associated with artists and writers and visited museums. He started translating some works from French.
In 1931, he returned to China, teaching at Shanghai Art College, translating and writing art criticism. He and Zhu married.
Fu lived through a period of upheaval and continued to write until the end of his life.
He witnessed the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).
In 1966 Fu and his wife were persecuted and imprisoned for several days by Red Guards. They later committed suicide together. Their home was ransacked.
After 1949, Fu focused on translating Balzac, despite suffering pulmonary ailments. His completed “Cousin Bette,” totaling 360,000 characters.
In his translation works and theory, he emphasized the importance of harmony between form and spirit in what was known as “Fu Lei Style” of translation. Many of his translations are considered definitive.
“After the ‘cultural revolution,’ nearly nothing of Fu’s was left, no furniture, nothing from his study, only photos and letters to his son,” Wang says.
Fu and his wife were buried in a cemetery in Pudong. The monument is inscribed: “When a man who retains the heart of a newborn baby, he will create a world.”