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 與文字的緣份是如何開始的? 即使家貧,家母也堅持送我進幼稚園,在那個年代,可不是必須的。學校連 板間課室也沒有,只有矮矮的屏風,即使坐着也可耳聞目睹鄰班的動靜。我 就這樣「兼讀」比我高一班的課,晚上又拿比我高三班的姐姐的課本來看, 久而久之,認字多了。上了小一,同學還在用「春天」作句,我已洋洋灑灑把 學過的甚麼春回大地百花盛放蝴蝶飛舞入文,寫滿了十乘十的格子簿。 聽說也有父母的影響? 家父在五六十年代曾在《虎報》和《南華早報》任職校對,問他英文讀音, 他不會直接讀出來,而是乘時教我們拼音。家母沒受教育,認得的字都是 靠讀聖經學回來的,遇上生字,她會多番向我查問,直到她記得為止。她的 口語非常生動精準,我家四兄妹平日交談或口角,也很注重用詞準確的。 你校對文稿鉅細無遺,如此心細如塵是性格使然嗎? 許是我性格敏感吧,同一句話,我會有很多解讀,所以我容易看到文稿的 歧義。多年批改校對下來,我大約知道問題會出在哪裏,會先看那些地方。 我先生常取笑我有靜待別人犯錯然後跳出來糾正的毛病,我說請你原諒, 那是大半生職業警覺使然。當然,和做人處事一樣,有些毛病如不涉及大 是大非,是可以容忍的。 半生為文,對寫作最深刻的領悟是甚麼? 寫作最理想是情理兼備。我是個感性的人,但隨着人生閱歷的累積,便領悟 到濫情對寫作和人生都沒有益處,開始嚮往和鍾情感性知性兼備的文章。 有說以興趣為業,其樂無窮;亦有說工作會扼殺興趣。你怎樣看? 為了謀生而犧牲興趣的例子聽過不少,但興趣是可以在公餘培養的,樂趣 是可以在工作尋找的。我們不一定需要與工作談戀愛,但要對它負責。我 很感恩一直以來的工作都是與自己的興趣有關。 你怎樣看現今世代的語言環境? 語言離不開人的思想和心態。現代人節奏急促,精雕細琢似已不合時宜。 現在我們這些雖非博學鴻儒,但已經是老派了。不論以前或現在,我都是 喜歡簡潔精準,不要絮絮叨叨,歇斯底里。 對年輕寫作者有何勸勉和忠告? 太言重了。尊重文字,一字一詞,都有意義,不要囫圇吞棗,含糊了事。寫中 文的,多讀點文言文,就從《古文觀止》開始吧。 得知你愛好廣泛,可否分享一下? 我參與合唱超過半世紀了,還記得八歲時在教會一位導師教導下,第一次 接觸二重唱,和姐姐分唱兩條旋律,顫動出仿似有光暈的和諧,幼小心靈 感動不已。我學的是西方美聲,但京崑粵越評彈均為我所愛。烹飪是我的 另一嗜好,趣味在於可按本子辦事,也可自由發揮。在更深人靜時準備食 物,是非常療癒的。 退休有何打算? 整理身外物,適度斷捨離,隨性而活,做好事。 自小熱愛語文,早年任教中文,於報館當翻譯,其後加入一大專院校 出任全校唯一的中文主任。於中大資訊處兢業十二載,揮寫審思,為 各類文稿和刊物把關,是要求嚴格的總編,也是眾人敬愛的老師。 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. 盧惠玉 Sandra Lo 資訊處總編輯 Chief Editor of Information Services Office 口 談 實 錄 / V iva V oce