Natascha Bruce (2016 ALTA Mentee)


Natascha BruceNatascha Bruce is a Chinese-English translator, currently living in Hong Kong. She grew up in a mish-mash of places, a disproportionate number of them beginning with the letter B (Belfast, Barbados, Bedford, Brussels). To her disappointment, none of these locations had the side effect of causing her to grow up bilingual. Instead, they left her with a slightly inconsistent British accent, the catch-up desire to learn as many languages as possible, and a complex about spending longer than a couple of years in any one place.

It did not occur to Natascha that learning Chinese was a possibility until she was seventeen; before then, it seemed a fact of life that Chinese characters were impossible to understand. She studied at Cambridge, and will always be jealous of the classmate whose “Why Chinese?” story involves being twelve and catching a scrap of paper fluttering down from the sky, which turned out to be contain a line of Chinese poetry. She spent most of her final year translating dark, bloody short stories by 1930s experimentalist Shi Zhecun for her own entertainment, wilfully ignoring the fact that she was supposed writing a thesis about him, instead.

After graduation, she moved to Taipei and worked as international coordinator for a Taiwanese film house, where she had the dubious honour of assisting with the releases of such titles as Sex & Zen 3D and The Twilight Saga. Luckily, she was also able to translate subtitles for some much better, homegrown Taiwanese films, including Starry Starry Night, an adaptation of the graphic novel by Jimmy Liao, and Girlfriend, Boyfriend, the first mainstream film to address both Martial Law and the gay rights movement in Taiwan. Post-Taipei, she balanced subtitle translation with barista shifts and an MA in Human Rights at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. 

In 2015, she was joint-winner of the Bai Meigui translation competition, for translation of a short story by Hong Kong author, Dorothy Tse.  This was a personal turning point: it reminded her how much fun it is to spend time inside stories, introduced her to Dorothy’s gripping, unsettling writing, and enabled her to spend a week at the Translate in the City summer school, taught by the excellent Nicky Harman. Since then, she has translated other stories for Dorothy, appearing in The Bellingham Review and BooksActually’s Gold Standard anthology, and worked with Nicky on a co-translation of Snow, a novella by Xu Xiaobin. They also collaborated on the foreword for Nicky’s translation of Crystal Wedding, Xu’s most recent novel.

Natascha has an affection for dark, unsettling writing, especially if it has a surrealist edge, and especially if there’s an animal in an off-kilter role. She also has an ever-growing appreciation for Sinophone writing from outside the Chinese mainland and – for all the above reasons – is very happy to be working on Yeng Pway Ngon’s short stories during her ALTA mentorship. She looks forward to spending the year with fractious middle-aged couples, political activist parrots, and an adventurous ant, among others.

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