Dutch writer/journalist Simon Carmiggelt wrote a daily column “Cursiefje” in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool. As a commentator on everyday life he was unparallel. His writings have an unsuspecting humour with a sharp taste. Camiggelt invented a new word, EPIBREREN, a verb in which one attempts to obscure chic charisma. It’s a word only found in Dutch dictionaries. In 2009, “Amsterdam, Creative Capital” project asked me to translate EPIBREREN into Chinese.
Gao Sha Bee
by Julie O’Yang
In the 10th century, there lived a magistrate in the old Chinese capital of Chang’an. Throughout his career Mr. Chen had been fulfilling different functions assigned by the emperor, who had absolutely no idea of his worthlessness. Mr. Chen appeared to be a busy man though. He worked at his office from dawn to sunset, from winter to winter without neglecting his duty for one single day. Whenever people asked him what he did in there, he looked at them seriously while he tossed the answer: ‘O boy, today I’m afraid it’s another day of Gao Shah Bee.’
Gao Shah Bee — 高下笔, as originally written in Chinese in the above mentioned story — means “holding the pen in the air without doing anything”. Since that was what Mr. Chen did: staring at the documents piling up in front of him without knowing where to begin with.
I propose the spelling Gao Shah Bee (instead of the pinyin transcription, Gao Xia Bi). I like the funny, effective association it brings. Moreover, the pronunciation brings still a few more things in mind.
In Chinese, Gao Shah Bee could mean something high and terrifying, or an impressive wall built of sand, or, in slang, an arsehole holding a high position.
The Chinese are keen builders of walls. Franz Kafka dedicated his famous short story to the Great Wall of China. I too would like to pay my tribute to one of my favourite writers for his great imagination. In Kafka’s writings, walls are looming up everywhere – walls of horror imposing on the individual. His walls are universal and of all time.