Time Out Shanghai - China's Best Books 2014
"Our top ten picks for books that tackle new ground in China", including
Death Fugue, by Sheng Keyi, tr Shelly Bryant
Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist, by Andrew Field, and tr Effy Hong
The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, by Chan Koonchung, tr Nicky Harman
Definitions of “Chinese” Literary Works in Expansion Mode?
In ancient times, the myths, epics and narrative poems of minority ethnicities blossomed with éclat in the garden of Chinese — even global—literature . . .Guan Hanqing (关汉卿), Pu Songling (蒲松龄), Nalan Xingde (纳兰性德), Cao Xueqin (曹雪芹), Abay (Ibrahim) Qunanbayuli (阿拜), Tsangyang Gyatso (仓央嘉措), Maḥmūd al-Kāšġarī (喀什噶理), Ali-Shir Nava’i (纳瓦依), Kutadgu Bilig (福乐智慧), The Gate of Wisdom (真理的入门), Compendium of the languages of the Turks (实厥语大辞典), Secret History of the Mongols (蒙古秘史), Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦), Storied Building with a Single Floor (一层楼), Weeping for the Red Pavilion (泣红亭), and The Story of Qing Dynasty History (青史演义) are all world-renowned authors and works.
Mixed Reaction to China’s Plan to Send Artists to Countryside
“My first reaction was ‘it’s about time,’ because the profit-driven market has been China’s main thing for over 25 years, and everything is for money, and that’s pretty much out of control right now, and it’s kind of starting to hurt the children, the next generation,” said [Anchee] Min, author of more than works of historical-fiction on Chinese culture. “I go back to China every year and ship boxes of books. It used to be quality literature, but nowadays there are no decent books, really. I find the boxes getting smaller and smaller.”
London Book Fair is offering an International Literary Translation Initiative Award. This is a new prize, set up last year, one of a dozen the LBF is awarding annually. It recognises the contribution of "organisations that have succeeded in raising the profile of literature in translation, promoting literary translators, and encouraging new translators and translated works." Qualified for nomination are: "Any company or organisation operating outside the UK, whose scope of achievement is outside the UK." Last year, the Best Translated Book Award (USA) won it.
So: a prize, a literary magazine, a summer school, a website...all would qualify, and anyone can nominate their favourite "initiative".
The deadline for nominations is 16 January 2015 (webpage currently says 9th, but this will be altered), and all the nominators have to do is fill in a fairly simple form, stating in 300 words why the organisation they're nominating deserves to win. Here's the link to the info
and to the nomination form
By Nicky Harman, December 14 '14, 12:47a.m.
Can Xue - "revelation of the year"
"My revelation of the year came in the tales of the maverick Chinese writer Can Xue. Funny, bizarre, improbable yet oddly moving, her stories in The Last Lover (trans. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen; Yale, £9.99) often arise from the mutual fantasies of East and West. They can sometimes bring Kafka, Ishiguro or Calvino to mind. In the end, though, Can Xue commands a truly unique voice." -- Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
Complete Review of Xu Zechen's Running Through Beijing
In its depiction of these lives -- of twenty-somethings who live on the fringes of society (though in this Beijing that's a very broad fringe) -- Running Through Beijing is an engaging and quite interesting read. Yet character and story are both underdeveloped: there's little sense of who these characters are, from their background to their motivations, and the novel is one more of glimpses than continuity, preventing much sense of growth or change. Despite showing these scenes from their lives, readers leave the book with little sense of what might become of them.
Complete Review reviews Murong Xuecun's Leave Me Alone (Chengdu)
Leave Me Alone was apparently first published on the Internet, and still has a jerky, piecemeal feel to it, the story strung together out of small, loud snapshots and episodes that are not entirely smoothly strung together. It doesn't help that Chen is such a volatile character, almost purely impulsive (even though he does hatch a plot or two). As Li Liang tells him:
You know what your problem is ? You don't take seriously the things you're supposed to take seriously, and you're way too serious about the things you should be relaxed about.
There's an interesting article by Sebastian Veg in China Perspectives that unpacks Yan Lianke's novel Four Books and examines the role of contemporary Chinese fiction in promoting a broader political and historical dialogue. Well worth a read.
Since the scar literature of the early 1980s, fiction and fictionalised autobiography have played an important role in bringing to light the mass violence of the Cultural Revolution. However, these texts remained within a well-defined framework in which the political system itself was not questioned. Over the last decade, by contrast, the Chinese literary field has focused more specifically on the 1950s, with works such as Yang Xianhui’s Chronicles of Jiabiangou (Tianjin, 2002), and Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone (Hong Kong, 2008). This paper focuses on Yan Lianke’s Four Books (Hong Kong, 2010), a full-fledged fictionalisation in a fantastic mode of the famine of the Great Leap Forward in a village on the Yellow River. Considering literature in the context of theories of the public sphere, it suggests that Yan’s book aims to broaden decisively the discussion on certain previously out-of-bounds aspects of the Mao era, an aim only partially thwarted by its failure to be published within mainland China. Four Books, like Yang Jisheng and Yang Xianhui’s works, thus represents an attempt to call into question the original legitimacy of the PRC polity and to create debate within the Chinese-speaking public sphere on the foundations of the current regime.
By Cindy M. Carter, December 3 '14, 3:12a.m.
LA Review: Canyon in the Body
But it’s not just this slice of small village life that makes Lan Lan’s poetry so compelling. Her elusiveness and uncertainty also thrill. Lines are in constant contradiction, her images the stuff of dreams: “My loosened hand holds you tight / The door is shut for you to pass.” There is both recognition and something that escapes our grasp here.
This fragility ends up being a strength. Lan Lan does not shy from self-criticism or doubt. In the beautiful, fragmentary “A Few Grains of Sand” she tells us:
Sometimes I just can’t understand my steamed bun
my rice and the dust on these bookshelves.
I kneel. My ego bends.
Complete Review review of Three Body Problem
Liu offers a variety of adventure along the way, from the virtual reality game that he repeatedly immerses readers in (and which at least moves mercifully quickly), to a rather bizarre plan to get at some information that involves Wang's expertise with nanomaterials, the Panama Canal, and a really hard to believe outcome. The uncertainty -- about the Trisolarians, as well as about science itself ("You really believe that the laws of physics are not invariant across time and space ?" Wang is led to ask) -- is more intriguing, making for a nice air of science fiction mystery to the story. And the clash of those who believe in science and those who seek to undermine technological advancement -- for ideological reasons, above all else, whether during the Cultural Revolution or, for different ones, in the present -- makes for decent tension. The ends to which people are willing to go is not always entirely convincing -- there are a couple of rather casual murders along the way -- but there's a good amount of good-versus-evil ambiguity.
Writers React to Comrade Xi Jinping’s Foray into Literary Criticism
It has taken a bit of time, but Chinese authors have begun to publicize their reaction to Xi Jinping’s speech at the Beijing Oct 15 Forum on Literature and Art Work. While slavish praise has been appropriately abundant, a handful of Art Workers do not appear to be singing in unison. We’ll skip the former and focus on the latter because they’re more fun.
Book Expo America, the largest US book fair, is schedule for late May 2015, and a certain ancient civilization is going to be the Guest of Honor. That means BEA is going to get the Frankfurt-2009/London-2012 treatment, with a small army of Chinese writers and publishers and "other" descending on New York for a few weeks.
Right about now is when the list of lucky writers is being compiled, and we'll have some small say in the compilation. They'll take into account which writers have recently published books in English (thanks again to Nicky Harman and Helen Wang for their timely compilation. Now I'm going to the peanut gallery with two additional questions:
Who among you (translators or publishers) have English-language translations coming out next year, ideally (but not necessarily) in the US, and ideally (but not necessarily) in the first half of the year?
Publications aside, who do you think should go? Who would make an interesting addition to the delegation?
Please comment here, or email me directly. Thanks!
By Eric Abrahamsen, November 18 '14, 9:40p.m.
Chinese to English translations (books) 2014
For the last two years we have published a list of Chinese to English translations (books only) over the year. Here is our list for 2014.
As always, if we’ve missed one out, please post it below. (Previous lists are here: 2012 and 2013).
By Nicky Harman, November 16 '14, 5:52a.m.
Writers Victoria on Dipping into the Chinese Literary Scene
In September, WV’s Director traveled to Beijing to participate in the inaugural Marco Polo Festival of Digital Literature and check out the Chinese literary scene.
There are 1.35 billion people in China. The equivalent of half of Australia’s entire population lives in Beijing alone. In a literary context, that makes for big reading audiences with a big appetite for works for translation.
Check out the Amazon.com page for the hardback edition of volume one of Liu Cixin's epic sci-fi trilogy, The Three Body Problem. Volume one, translated by Ken Liu and published by Tor Books, has only been out for a few days, and as of today is ranked #683 among all books on Amazon, and #1 among Chinese literature. Holy crap.
Congratulations to Liu Cixin, Ken Liu, and in advance to Joel Martinsen, the translator of the forthcoming second volume.
And to the rest of you Chinese authors… Reach for the stars.
By Eric Abrahamsen, November 14 '14, 3:27a.m.
The Bai Meigui Translation Competition 2014-2015 is Now Open!
The competition is organised by the Writing Chinese project at the University of Leeds. To enter, download the very short story by Dorothy Tse, translate it and submit your entry before the deadline of 28 February 2015. The competition is free to enter, and open to anyone, in any country.
Yan Lianke: The Pursuit of Art, Unemcumbered by the Golden Bottle Washer
At a symposium last week, President Xi Jinping met with a group of artists, including the Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, and talked about the value of art in China. According to the official China Youth Online, he said, “For art workers to be successful, they must breathe together with the people, share their fate and feel their feelings, rejoice at their joy, grieve at their grief, and serve the people like a willing ox.”
But only the pursuit of true art, unencumbered by anyone, can help us find the delicate light, beauty, warmth and love that are hidden in the darkness.
Yu Hua: deaths without burial, Chinese version.
The Chinese writer Yu Hua, well known abroad with international hits such as To Live or Brothers is back in Paris for the launch of his latest novel The Seventh Day.
- latest post by Bertrand Mialaret
Please address inquiries or submissions to the editors at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (The deadline for inquiries for issue No. 3 is December 31, 2014; the deadline for submissions is January 31, 2015.)
CAL, vol. 1, no. 2 - Contents - see below
By Helen Wang, October 18 '14, 9:22a.m.
Writing Chinese Project - forum now open - all welcome
'Writing Chinese: Authors, Authority and Authorship' is a new project based at the White Rose East Asia Centre in the University of Leeds, UK. Bringing together writers, translators, publishers, literary agents and academics working in the field of contemporary Chinese literature, we aim to foster closer links and dialogue, and to help promote contemporary Chinese writers in the UK.
Chinese Writer, Tackling Tiananmen, Wields ‘Power to Offend’
Now a prominent novelist and a denizen of Beijing literary circles, Ms. Sheng eventually fashioned that turning point in contemporary Chinese history into a stomach-churning, exuberantly written allegory, “Death Fugue,” which recalls Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”
In Books in the Turkish Stand in Frankfurt Book Fair, Turkish columnist Doğan Hızlan reports on Finland's neat marketing ploy at the just-finished 2014 Frankfurt Int'l Book Fair:
I also learned that in Finland there are 2.2 million saunas. They have carried this widespread sauna culture to the book fair. Reading sessions are being held in public saunas in Frankfurt. A Finnish author could bust into any sauna . . .
By Bruce Humes, October 12 '14, 8:58p.m.
Exposing an authoritarian state with explicit sex in fiction: Chen Xiwo in The Independent
Explicit sex in storytelling has often been mistaken for pornography – and not just in China. We have only to think of the Marquis de Sade’s imprisonment, or the Penguin trial of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. In the foreword of my tattered copy of Lady Chatterley, Doris Lessing reminds us that writing about sex is never just about the act but about “all the power-play between the genders”. Arifa Akbar
So it’s been a while since we made any sort of public announcements
about Pathlight magazine, though in fact production has continued
apace. In fact, we’ve got two rather large bits of news.
Two issues have gone online more or less at once! How’s that for efficiency. The first is themed around minority/ethnic writers, and features writing by and about China’s ethnic groups. The theme of the second is gender – we started out thinking of it as a women’s issue, but it got a little bit bigger than that. Take a look, and tell us what you think!
Both issues are available as digital downloads on both Amazon and iTunes – we’re experimenting with a lower price, so if you were previously balking at $6.99, see how $3.99 strikes you.
The other bit of news is that we’ve had a changing of the guard: after two years and nine issues of Pathlight, Alice Xin Liu is stepping down as managing editor, to be replaced by Dave Haysom, of Spitting Dog fame, and Karmia Olutade, a superlative translator of poetry, and now poetry editor. Thanks and best wishes to Alice, and welcome to the new crew! As usual, you can reach us with suggestions or submissions at email@example.com.
Look for the next issue, themed around the re-writing of myth and
history, early next month.
By Eric Abrahamsen, October 6 '14, 3:15a.m.
There will be more to say about the Chinese-English Literary Translation Training Course over the next few days, but for now I leave you with an image of Jonathan Rechtman and Austin Woerner hard at work.
It's a brutal, thankless job.
By Eric Abrahamsen, September 28 '14, 6:04a.m.
Chu T’ien-wen wins 2015 Newman Prize
NORMAN, OK – An international jury has selected the Taiwanese novelist and screenwriter Chu T’ien-wen (朱天文) as the winner of the fourth Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. She is the first female Newman laureate. Sponsored by the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for U.S.-China Issues, the Newman Prize is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition, and is conferred solely on the basis of literary merit. Any living author writing in Chinese is eligible. A jury of five distinguished literary experts nominated the five candidates last spring and selected the winner in a transparent voting process on September 17, 2014.
The Untranslatables - by Lucas Klein
The following contribution from Lucas Klein is our first post in a blog series we’re calling “The Untranslatables.” Klein was awarded the Lucien Stryk Prize in 2013 for his translation of Xi Chuan’s Notes On the Mosquito: Selected Poems, which he discusses here...
Guess Who Is Doing Literary Translation?
Best-selling author Murakami Haruki, that's who.
In Outcast of the Japanese Literary World, we learn that he is currently translating into Japanese a work by Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad. But in the past he has also translated writing by Raymond Carver and others.
Murakami obviously doesn't do it for the $$. A model for upcoming Chinese writers, more of whom have decent English (compared to older authors)?
Crowdfunding Translations of Chinese Sci-Fi
A project looking to translate award-winning sci-fi from Chinese writers spearheads this week's look at crowdfunding, but that's not all - there's a short movie about Bears learning to use fire, a card game about the Periodic table and a lot more.
Chinese Arts and Letters, a literary and academic journal, solicits
English-language contributions for issue No. 3. Texts not exceeding
10,000 words will be considered, consisting of translations of
contemporary Chinese-language literature in any genre, essays on the
Chinese arts and letters of any era, and creative writing in any
genre about China. Translated texts or inquiries for translations
must also submit the original Chinese text, and all translations will
be reviewed for accuracy and style. Payment for contributions is 0.80
RMB per word (contributions) or per Chinese character (translation),
before tax. Texts with a focus on Jiangsu may be given special
Please address inquiries or submissions to the editors at
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com The
deadline for inquiries for issue No. 3 is December 31, 2014; the
deadline for submissions is January 31, 2015.
By Eric Abrahamsen, September 15 '14, 2:28a.m.
When you have trouble moving product overseas -- and cash in your pocket -- you can always call on a classic strategy: take control of the distribution channels.
There are four traditional ways to do so: set up your own local firm; invest in a local firm; merge your firm with a local firm; or simply acquire an existing player in that market which owns a respected brand name.
Is China getting ready to do so in the publishing field, as part of its soft power push?
By Bruce Humes, September 14 '14, 8:35p.m.
Children's Books in China: A Q&A with Xiaoyan Huang
Xiaoyan Huang is editorial specialist for children’s books at dangdang.com, China’s leading online shopping service provider, and the country’s top online children’s bookseller. She has worked in the Chinese book market for more than 20 years, for HarperCollins China, Amazon China, Macmillan China, and Hachette China.
Copied from Writing Chinese website:
Saturday November 1st, 2014. Public talk @11am – 1pm. Translation masterclass@ 2pm – 5pm. Venue to be announced (University of Leeds)
For our morning event, which is open to the general public (no registration required), author Yan Ge and her translator Nicky Harman will be talking about their work together. Yan Ge’s novella White Horse, translated by Nicky, will be released in October by Hope Road Publishing. And for a taster of more of Yan Ge’s work and why Nicky recommends it so highly, have a look at this recent article in Words Without Borders.
Our afternoon event is a literary translation masterclass, led by the author and her translator, and is open to anyone interested in the translation of contemporary Chinese fiction into English.
The masterclass is free but registration is required. If you’d like to attend, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then email all attendees in advance with the text that we’ll be translating on the day.
We’re also pleased to announce that the masterclass will be followed by the launch of the Bai Meigui Literary Translation Competition. More details to follow soon!
By Helen Wang, September 8 '14, 2:26p.m.
Now for "Selective Translation"
On August 25, the Paper posted a Chinese translation of London-based magazine the Economist's August 23 cover article, "What China Wants." The Economist feature proffered several recommendations for how the United States can accommodate China's economic and military rise without forfeiting U.S. interests in Asia. But the abridged Chinese translation left out several key passages . . .
China Fiction Book Club (Twitter @cfbcuk) is now on Goodreads.com. We are on their lists - Listopia - and can be found by typing in any of a number of keywords e.g. Chinese + translated + fiction. The point of it is to get an open-access list of published translations onto Goodreads. So... get posting, people! You can also vote for books already listed (Helen and I put up 20 or so, just to get the list started) if you want.
By Nicky Harman, September 3 '14, 11:07a.m.
If I were a political cartoonist, of the WWII-era ilk where they label
everything in the cartoon so the point gets across better, I would
draw a cartoon to illustrate China’s “Going Out,” the policy which is
meant to bring Chinese culture to the rest of the world, and it would
look something like this:
A patch of land representing China; in the center stands The Leader
(it says that on his chest). He gazes off into the distance, one hand
pointing outwards in the best 指点江山 style, and the words “Going Out
Policy” are written on that sleeve. The other hand is loading
sumptuous food onto crescent tables to either side of him. The food
could be labeled “Government Budget,” but that should be
self-explanatory. Seated around the outside of the tables are a host
of people we could label “Government Functionaries,” until I think of
The functionaries are shoveling food into their mouths, their gazes
fixed in rapt devotion upon The Leader. They’ve all scootched
backwards until their rear ends hang out over the border of China, and
they’re saying things to The Leader like: “We have ‘Gone Out,’ and it
is wonderful!,” and, “The foreigners are all amazed!”
Meanwhile, a few big-nosed foreigners (in berets and cowboy hats!) are
standing around the outside of the border, looking at this line of
plumber’s cracks, and asking each other, “What on earth are they
trying to tell us?”
If only I could draw…
By Eric Abrahamsen, September 3 '14, 12:18a.m.