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Steve Jobs’ ‘Love Letter to His Wife’ Makes Waves in Asia

Many readers didn’t like the way the official translator of the bio presented the letter in Chinese characters


From Taipei to Tokyo, and from Singapore to Shanghai, a "love letter" from Steve Jobs to his wife Laurene, written on the 20th anniversary of their marriage and contained in Walter Isaacson's recently published biography of Jobs, has been having a field day among Internet surfers in Asia intent on translating the missive into Chinese (and Japanese) in a better and more touching way. Many readers apparently did not like the way the official translator of the bio presented the love letter in Chinese characters.

According to observers inside China, over a million Weibo users across the communist giant have downloaded the now-famous letter, which was written in English this way:

"We didn’t know much about each other twenty years ago. We were guided by our intuition; you swept me off my feet. It was snowing when we got married at the Ahwahnee. Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times, but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown…

"We’ve been through so much together and here we are right back where we started 20 years ago – older and wiser – with wrinkles on our faces and hearts. We now know many of life’s joys, sufferings, secrets and wonders and we’re still here together. My feet have never returned to the ground."

Now a month after Jobs' death, the alleged love letter has inspired a string of translations and re-translations as Jobs fans search for the perfect words to express their appreciation.

Some Chinese and Taiwanese netizens were apparently unhappy with the wording of the letter that appeared in the the official Chinese-language translation of Walter Isaacson's recent biography. Readers complained that the Chinese translation was inept, too plain and not very touching all.

Therefore, hundreds of people across Asia set out to write their own translations, according to reporter Mei Jia, writing for the state-controlled English-language ''China Daily'' in Beijing and distributed worldwide by the Asia News Network.

One 30-something blogger in Beijing told the China Daily that he preferred to rewite the love letter using "elaborate word phrases to share my love for Steve Jobs." And no sooner had he posted his rewrite than some 30,000 readers forwarded the "new and improved" version by email and blogs.

Other Jobs fans have created their own translations using various Complex Chinese and Simplified Chinese literary forms and tones, including some in the style of ancient Tang Dynasty poetry and various dialects inside China.

So who is responsible for the bad translation that appeared in the book? A team worked on the book as a whole, and a woman named Wei Qun, 37, got the job of translating Jobs'  love letter for the book, She defended her work and she did her best, although she said she was happy to see that her jab at the Job missive had "triggered an entertaining campaign for everybody to try out their transalting skills."

"I insist that my style was correct and flowed the right way," Wei told Mei. "My wording in Chinese was strong and powerful, which resembles Steve Jobs and the impetus of his success."

But don't tell that to a million Net surfers across Asia who disagree with her.

Back to the drawing board?


Dan Bloom is a freelance writer based in Asia since 1991. During a five-year stint in Tokyo, he covered the triumphs (and occasional failures) of Hollywood movies in Japan and interviewed American actors passing through Tokyo on film promotion tours, including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner.