Obituary: David Hawkes

The Guardian ran an obituary of David Hawkes, celebrated China scholar who translated Hong Lou Meng with the title The Story of the Stone, Volume 1, ‘The Golden Days’:

When approached by Penguin Classics in 1970, he leapt at the chance to produce a less academic translation, which would be more “enjoyable for the English reader”. Before long, the magnitude of this work – the complete text has 120 chapters – convinced Hawkes that it had to be a full-time task.

With a very Chinese kind of self-deprecation, he argued that he “never saw himself as a very good professor”, and that he would make a better translator. The world of China studies was shaken by the news that Hawkes had resigned his chair.

Over the next 10 years, helped by a research fellowship at All Souls, he completed the first 80 chapters in three volumes (1973, 1977 and 1980) under the Dream’s original title, The Story of the Stone. The final 40 chapters, which only came to light after Cao Xueqin’s death, would be translated by Hawkes’s son-in-law, the sinologist John Minford.

[…] After completing the Dream, Hawkes moved to Wales, where he revised his work on the Songs of Chu, also for Penguin Classics, and developed new interests in gardening, goats, Welsh and the history of religion.

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