麦家是中国当代著名作家，其作品已经被译为30多个语种，在海外产生了广泛的影响，是中国当代最具世界影响力的作家之一。鉴于麦家在中国当代文学海外传播过程中产生的实际影响和示范效应，中国文化译研网（CCTSS）特就麦家作品海外传播情况的反馈做一系统梳理，北京语言大学徐宝锋教授将之概括为中国文学“走出去”的“麦家模式”，希望“麦家模式”能成为中国当代文学作品“走出去”的重要借鉴与参考。（推荐阅读：译研推荐 | 中国文学“走出去”的“麦家模式”）中国文化译研网现推出国内外媒体关于麦家及其作品的系列专访与报道，对中国文学“走出去”的“麦家模式”进行详细读解，此篇为专题报道第三篇。
题目：Decoded by Mai Jia; book review
Review：A mixture of Kafka and Agatha Christie . . . An utterly fascinating read.
Decoded is a spy novel that largely ignores the conventions of Western spy thrillers. There is little violence and no clever gadgets other than the human brain. Whereas Bond and spy heroes of similar ilk spring fully formed onto the page, the first third of Decoded is a family history of the book’s protagonist, Rong Jinzhen, that goes back nine generations. The genealogy weaves together tragedy and comedy. The Rongs are wealthy salt merchants and mathematical geniuses noted for their large heads. Those heads are often too big for the birth canal and Jinzhen’s grandmother dies in labour. The son survives and is nicknamed Killer – and lives up to his name when he in turn fatally impregnates a woman who dies giving birth to the main character. The rise of Jinzhen, from an orphan cruelly nicknamed the Grim Reaper, to a celebrity code-breaker is more Dickens than Fleming.
In a brief introduction, the author describes his style as a mixture of Kafka and Agatha Christie. Games of deduction set in a dreamlike world are certainly present, but so is meta-fiction. Decoded is a book about writing a book. The lonely struggle of Jinzhen to break code PURPLE reflects the isolated labour of a novelist – as does his endless reading, ‘...studying, learning the things that other people have already done.’ Indeed, the personality and life style of Jinzhen – ‘unstable’, ‘dangerously alienated’, ‘living alone, working alone’– are not unknown in the literary world.
One of the joys of Decoded is its rich evocation of Chinese culture from the importance of dream interpretation – an art not unlike the decrypting of encoded secrets – to pear blossom tinctures as a cure for constipation.
Mai Jia is a pseudonym. What is this book really about? The clue is in the title. This book is more about Jiang ‘decoding’ himself than breaking enemy encryption. It is an autobiography operating under the cover of spy fiction – and an utterly fascinating read.
Olivia Milburn’s translation is superb example of how to find apt English equivalents – ‘he larded his speech with words that sounded like the chirping of a bird’ – without losing the flavour of the original Mandarin.