Newsletter No. 540

08 # 5 4 0 | 1 9 . 0 6 . 2 0 1 9 Photo by ISO type, but life has taught me that sentimentality does us no good in both writing and life. The older I grow, the more I begin to appreciate and admire writings that touch the heart and pique the brain. Some say one should do what one loves; others say work kills joy. What’s your take on this? We are no strangers to stories of people sacrificing their interests to make ends meet. But interests can be cultivated outside work, and work can be enjoyable, too. We do not need to fall in love with our work, but we need to be responsible. I am grateful that all the jobs I have done so far align with my interests. How do you view the state of language today? Language mirrors our thoughts and attitudes. Modern life proceeds at such a breakneck speed, leaving very little time for the belles lettres . Though far from being erudite in any sense, I am considered old-school by many. Now or in the past, I love to keep things simple and spot on—there is no point in rambling on hysterically. Any word of advice to the young writers? What a flattering question. Well, respect words. Every word or phrase counts. Don’t just lump things together thoughtlessly. With Chinese, it helps to read more classical texts. Good to start with Guwen Guanzhi . We know you have very wide interests. Mind sharing one or two with us? I have joined the chorus for more than half a century. I was eight when a church tutor taught me and my sister to sing in a duet. Our two lines seemed to twine into a shimmering harmony. I was profoundly moved. What I practise is Western bel canto , but I am also fond of all genres of Chinese opera. Cooking is another passion of mine. You can follow the recipe to the letter, or you can improvise. To prepare food in the still of the night is therapeutic. Any plans for life after retirement? To take stock, and part with the nonessentials. To follow my heart, and do good. Amy L. How were you initiated into the world of letters? Despite modest means, my mother insisted on sending me to kindergarten, which was something of a privilege at that time. My neighbourhood kindergarten did not have walls between classrooms but only partitions. The goings-on of the neighbouring class were within earshot and sight. That’s how I was tutored in a higher grade. At night, I read the textbooks of my sister who’s three grades higher. My vocabulary grew fast and by primary one, when my classmates were still describing spring with ‘spring’, I was already using metaphors like ‘nature awakening’ and ‘new blooms everywhere’. Seems like there were parental influences as well? My father worked for The Standard and South China Morning Post as a proofreader in the 1950s and 60s. When asked how a word should be pronounced, he wouldn’t just say it for us but would approach it phonetically. My mother didn’t receive any formal education. Her literacy came from reading the Bible. She would repeatedly ask me about new words until she had learned them by heart. She was always vivid and precise in her expressions. Because of that, linguistic felicity was very much upheld by me and my three siblings, whether in daily conversations or in arguments. You are meticulous between the lines on a page and beyond. Were you born that way? Maybe I’m a sensitive person. I could see many meanings behind a single word or phrase. So I pick up the ambiguities in a text easily. My years of editing experience would immediately point me to where most problems might lie. My husband always said I have a knack for lying in wait and pouncing on people at the first sign of a mistake. I would beg his pardon, and blame it on professional reflex. Of course, like many things in life, a mistake can be tolerated if it’s not a matter of life and death. Can you share your deepest insight about writing? The best kind of writing always carries that perfect blend of sense and sensibility. I am of the sentimental 与文字的缘份是如何开始的? 即使家贫,家母也坚持送我进幼稚园,在那个年代,可不是必须的。学校连 板间课室也没有,只有矮矮的屏风,即使坐着也可耳闻目睹邻班的动静。我 就这样「兼读」比我高一班的课,晚上又拿比我高三班的姐姐的课本来看, 久而久之,认字多了。上了小一,同学还在用「春天」作句,我已洋洋洒洒把 学过的什么春回大地百花盛放蝴蝶飞舞入文,写满了十乘十的格子簿。 听说也有父母的影响? 家父在五六十年代曾在《虎报》和《南华早报》任职校对,问他英文读音, 他不会直接读出来,而是乘时教我们拼音。家母没受教育,认得的字都是 靠读圣经学回来的,遇上生字,她会多番向我查问,直到她记得为止。她的 口语非常生动精准,我家四兄妹平日交谈或口角,也很注重用词准确的。 你校对文稿钜细无遗,如此心细如尘是性格使然吗? 许是我性格敏感吧,同一句话,我会有很多解读,所以我容易看到文稿的 歧义。多年批改校对下来,我大约知道问题会出在哪里,会先看那些地方。 我先生常取笑我有静待别人犯错然后跳出来纠正的毛病,我说请你原谅, 那是大半生职业警觉使然。当然,和做人处事一样,有些毛病如不涉及大 是大非,是可以容忍的。 半生为文,对写作最深刻的领悟是什么? 写作最理想是情理兼备。我是个感性的人,但随着人生阅历的累积,便领悟 到滥情对写作和人生都没有益处,开始向往和钟情感性知性兼备的文章。 有说以兴趣为业,其乐无穷;亦有说工作会扼杀兴趣。你怎样看? 为了谋生而牺牲兴趣的例子听过不少,但兴趣是可以在公余培养的,乐趣 是可以在工作寻找的。我们不一定需要与工作谈恋爱,但要对它负责。我 很感恩一直以来的工作都是与自己的兴趣有关。 你怎样看现今世代的语言环境? 语言离不开人的思想和心态。现代人节奏急促,精雕细琢似已不合时宜。 现在我们这些虽非博学鸿儒,但已经是老派了。不论以前或现在,我都是 喜欢简洁精准,不要絮絮叨叨,歇斯底里。 对年轻写作者有何劝勉和忠告? 太言重了。尊重文字,一字一词,都有意义,不要囫囵吞枣,含糊了事。写中 文的,多读点文言文,就从《古文观止》开始吧。 得知你爱好广泛,可否分享一下? 我参与合唱超过半世纪了,还记得八岁时在教会一位导师教导下,第一次 接触二重唱,和姐姐分唱两条旋律,颤动出仿似有光晕的和谐,幼小心灵 感动不已。我学的是西方美声,但京昆粤越评弹均为我所爱。烹饪是我的 另一嗜好,趣味在于可按本子办事,也可自由发挥。在更深人静时准备食 物,是非常疗愈的。 退休有何打算? 整理身外物,适度断舍离,随性而活,做好事。 自小热爱语文,早年任教中文,于报馆当翻译,其后加入一大专院校 出任全校唯一的中文主任。于中大资讯处兢业十二载,挥写审思,为 各类文稿和刊物把关,是要求严格的总编,也是众人敬爱的老师。 A language lover since childhood, Ms. Sandra Lo has carried out a lifelong romance with letters: first as a Chinese language teacher, then as a news translator, and later as the only Chinese language officer in a higher education institution. Her 12 years with the Information Services Office as a gatekeeper for all writings and publications continues this labour of love. In the eyes of her colleagues, she is a scrupulous editor-in-chief and a beloved and revered teacher. 卢惠玉 Sandra Lo 资讯处总编辑 Chief Editor of Information Services Office 口 谈 实 录 / V iva V oce