Join me as I embark my journey to know the Tiny Times characters. This is my first translation project ever and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. This is the original novel that sparked off the Tiny Times movies. There are 4 Tiny Times movies based on the 3 books written. The director of the films, Guo Jingming, is also the same person who wrote these books. Without further ado, let’s get started!
English Translation: Tiny Times 1.0 Chapter 1.1 by Guo Jingming
Original Chinese Novel: 小时代 by 郭敬明
Flipping over the latest issue of Times Magazine, the title reads, ‘Shanghai and Hongkong – which will be the future economic centre?‘ — Beijing had long been forgotten, much less Taipei which has been going through a crazy economic decline.
Everyday, there are countless people who integrate in this fast paced city — bringing along their dreams and the grand blueprint for their lives; everyday, there are countless people who leave this cold and unfeeling forest made of skyscrapers — with their tears.
Young white collared workers carrying Marc Jacobs bags and balancing on heels 10 centimetres tall emerge from the crowded subway station and rush up the steps while covering their nose and rolling their eyes, showing their despise towards the beggars.
The office building hallway is filled with long queues of people queueing for interviews. Every 10 minutes, there will be a youth coming out from the office, throwing the CV in their hands into the rubbish bin.
The countless Asian faces at Starbucks are all scurrying with their takeaway coffee. Some are on the phone and drinking their coffee hurriedly on the way out; while others hold on to their coffee carefully, getting on the black sedans waiting by the side of the road and rushing to their bosses’ office. In contrast, those with western faces are sitting in the cafe comfortable, squinting their eyes to read Shanghai Daily or speaking loudly on their phone with a happy tone asking, “What about your holiday?”
The luxury brand stores at The Bund building no. 1 to building no. 18 had attendants with poker faces. Occasionally, ladies wearing huge sunglasses will carefully pull out a piece of clothing from the racks in a way that seems like the piece of clothing has been contaminated by poison and can only be touched by two fingers and give it a quick glance from the corner of their eye. Before all the attendants can plaster smiles on their faces and rush forward to make recommendations, the piece of clothing will be let go and returned to the crowded rack. The Bund has many luxury stores and attendants will always outnumber customers. These stores have a staunch belief that a customer have to be waited on by at least five attendants.
One road away, the riverside avenue alongside The Bund is filled with countless tourists holding on to cameras, fighting for a spot with the best scenery. They are wearing all sorts of large-chain-store-produced clothing that are a dime for a dozen and using different dialects and accent to shout out, “Look here! Look here!” The difference between them and the world of luxury across the road is a mere 20 metres.
In the vintage allies, there are women with bed hair carrying toilet bowls moving towards the public toilets. Their eyes are filled with resentment and unwillingness accumulated over the years.
Meanwhile, the road along 8 Jinan Road is filled with a row of luxury cars waiting to pick up the ladies in the building — these ladies have spent 3 hours dolling up just for an afternoon tea.
This is a city that develops at the speed of light.
Materialism and flourishing vitality have made this city as complicated as an intricate underground maze.
This is an indifferent and unfeeling era that is as sharp as a dagger.
Holes are dug one after another in the hearts of people and bombs are buried into them. There is a rapidly dividing social polarization tearing apart the souls of people into two.
When we lie in our own cosy little blankets, we are so tiny that we are almost nothing.
When I was woken up by the sharp cries of the alarm clock, my survival instincts made sure I pushed the clock further away from me. And then, there was a satisfying silence.
However, I had been too lazy to put the pail of water back into the toilet after watering the plants last night. When I woke up screaming half an hour later and saw the silent clock lying submerged in the pail, I let out a second scream which was comparatively feeble.
I took the alarm clock to the balcony to sun, hoping that after the water evaporated, my clock will stubbornly survive – just like my phone which was once submerged in milk tea. To hasten the speed of evaporation, I shook the clock violently for a few times, hoping to force the water droplets out. When I stopped, I realised the back cover of my clock had mysteriously disappeared. Soon after, the sound of a middle aged woman screaming, “Aiyo! Want to die ah?” travelled to me from downstairs.
The last time I heard this sentence was when I dropped a blanket weighing 10 kilogrammes down the balcony. On that fateful day, Mrs Zhang from the unit below mine had just returned from the salon with hair that was styled 20 centimetres tall and fixed with about a kilogramme of gel. As she expected vibrant colours of life with her new hairdo, all she saw was blackness as if she had closed her eyes.
Whereas, at the top real estate in the centre of Shanghai – the atmosphere of elegance and class slowly dispersed throughout the building which had an exterior made of gold.
Gu Yan Sheng was ordering his maid to pour milk tea into his Hermes tea cup as he typed on his phone. The sunlight from the morning sun at 7.30am shone through the Egyptian curtains and fell on his face. With the sharp contours of his face, he looked 10 years younger than his actual age of 50. Of course, this is also attributed to the anti-aging supplements and expensive skincare products that his daughter had forced him to consume and use.
His daughter sat across him, sipping her coffee and flipping though the finance column of the newspapers which had just been retrieved by the maid. Gu Li brought her cup in front of the maid. She did not say anything nor did she lift her head up from the newspapers – she only left her hand in mid-air. After a while, when she moved her hand again, the cup is already filled with Brazilian coffee.
Satisfied, Gu Yan Sheng smiled and continued with his phone call, “There’s nothing that can’t be demolished. Even if it’s a grave, you can just flatten it straight away and build houses on top. Dug out bones? Then throw it away! Also, is the price for the plantations at Heilongjiang quoted yet? If it’s changed into US dollars… Oh right, what’s the exchange rate for US dollars today? If you can, help me to…” Just as Gu Yan Sheng stopped for a moment to take a sip of his milk tea, he heard Gu Li quietly say, “1 to 7.46.”
Gu Yan Sheng looked over and asked, “Lily, what did you say?”
“I said, the exchange rate for US dollars today,” Gu Li lifted up her head and continued, “is 1 to 7.46.” Then, she lowered her head and continued to look at her newspapers. It was only until Gu Yan Sheng was about to leave the house that Gu Li lifted her head again, “Dad, if you are not attending a Hawaiian themed gathering, please remove that flowery tie right now, alright?” Gu Li stopped, turned her head and told Lucy (her housemaid), “Go and get the dark blue Hermes tie I bought for him.”
With that, Gu Li smiled and looked at her father. A drop of sweat was formed on Gu Yan Sheng’s forehead.
Just as the door closed, Gu Li’s mother sheepishly crept out of the bedroom. After checking the surroundings, she floated in front of Gu Li and said, “Lily, lend me some money.”
Gu Li lightly placed her coffee mug on the table, “Mum, I called Cartier yesterday. If they dare to sell that piece of jewellery to you, I will tell all of dad’s friends and all of my friends to switch to Bulgari instead.”
Just as Gu Li’s mother was preparing to scream, Gu Li impatiently slanted her eyes, “Take a break, you bought 3 bracelets, 2 watches and 2 rings in a month. How many hands do you have? Even a centipede doesn’t wear like you do. Stop for a while.”
After she had her piece, Gu Li picked up the Fendi bag beside her and walked towards the door, “Lucy, call the driver. I’m going down right now. I don’t want to wait. Tell him to be faster.”
10 seconds after Gu Li closed the door, the door opened again, “Lucy, pass me my mouthwash. I forgot to put it in my bag.”
Gu Li’s mother took the chance to scream, “You have no point! Why don’t you put the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel all into your bag as well?”
Gu Li lowered her head to think for a bit, “Worth considering.” After she took the bottle of mouthwash from Lucy, she left without even turning her head.
As Tang Wanru attempted to stuff herself into the ‘L’ sized female apparel for the third time, Nan Xiang, who was sitting opposite her sighed. She sighed not because Tang Wanru did not manage to stuff herself into that piece of clothing – honestly, Nan Xiang does not understand the good that lies in the outfit that Tang Wanru is trying on. Black straight lines, huge pockets and there’s even leaping horse design on the sleeves…… When Tang Wanru is trying on the clothes, Nan Xiang had grabbed the store attendant and repeatedly verified that, “This really doesn’t belong to the male apparels?”
As Tang Wanru decide to give up on that piece of clothing with tears in her eyes, another store attendant floated over with smiles on her face and gave Tang Wanru the fatal blow, “Miss, we have the male version of this apparel here, it’s exactly the same. People will definitely not be able to tell when you wear it.”
“You mean people can’t tell that it’s a male design or a female design?” Nan Xiang’s response was very quick.
“This….” The stall attendant had a pained expression.
Tang Wanru angrily threw the clothes away and protested, “Such a bully! I’m not buying.” Then she walked over and dragged Nan Xiang, who almost suffered hypoxia from rolling her eyes, away.
However, to Tang Wanru, this is not the breaking point of the day. The most fatal blow came from Nan Xiang who had initially wanted to leave. Nan Xiang had suddenly saw a piece of clothing that caught her eye and hence took a ‘S’ size to try on. When she came out, she faintly sighed, “Too large.”
Tang Wanru had angrily stormed away.
The abandoned Nan Xiang then started window shopping on her own but nothing caught her interest. She had never liked to buy clothes. Furthermore, unless there is a discount or Gu Li bought it for her, Nan Xiang would never buy clothes from a departmental store. However, God is not unfair. Whenever Nan Xiang wears a hundred-over-yuan dress that was dug out from a small roadside store and stand amongst girls, boys will always automatically neglect the rest of the women and focus their vision steadily on her. Because of this, Tang Wanru had always kept a distance from Nan Xiang.
After walking one round in the bookshop at the 4th level of the building, Nan Xiang decided to report to school earlier. Hence, she paid for the sketchbook she bought and headed to the public bus stop while holding the large book.
The Bund is a famous waterfront and regarded as the symbol of Shanghai.
A hundred yuan is about 16USD.
I hope I haven’t ruined the book. The first chapter is a bit more abstract and harder to translate. It basically draws a picture of the background – the frantic life in Shanghai. There are many comparisons made across different groups of people to highlight the ‘high life’ our leads are living. Guo Jing Ming has clearly said that Tiny Times shows ‘the high life’ and hence, there are many luxurious branded items used by the characters. I’m not well versed in that and hence might not translate as well so feel free to clarify or offer suggestions. I’m trying translate as accurately as I can because one of the pet peeves I have is when translators oversimplify and hence lose the essence that the author portrays. However, this might result in less fluent reading so please endure!
In the first chapter, we have been introduced to three of our 4 main female characters – Gu Li, Tang Wanru and Nan Xiang. Gu Li is definitely the rich girl with sass, Tang Wanru doesn’t seem to be a nice person and Nan Xiang is the resident beauty who’s poor(?). Who is your favourite?