Chinese Literature in Translation

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Pathlight Magazine

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A quarterly literary journal featuring translations of the best contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry.

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China Writers Association Translation Fund Recipients

That wasn’t so hard after all – the CWA has given us the list of the 25 translation fund recipients for the last round of funding. What we don’t know are the details of translator/publisher (though in many cases you can guess), or how much funding will actually be supplied. But still, it’s an interesting list – see it below, after the jump.

In the meantime, the deadline is nearly up for the next round of funding for both the general CWA program, and its ethnic-minority fiction funding program. The ethnic-minority funding applications will be reviewed next month, and the contemporary fiction applications the month after, so time is short. If you’ve got all the necessary materials on hand (and the publishing contract is already signed), you can first send a digital version of the application to the Writers Association at


By Eric Abrahamsen, August 27 '14, 9:57a.m.

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China Writers Association Translation Fund – Some News

Towards the end of last year, the China Writers Association announced the inception of two new literary translation funds, one for general fiction, and the other specifically for minority fiction. Many applications were submitted, and then we all commenced to wait. And wait, and…

We started to suspect that the whole thing had foundered on some hidden bureaucratic sandbar, but just recently we heard that the program is, in fact, still under way – not only that, the CWA is actually ready to announce its first round of winners. Not announce, exactly: the winners will be contacted on the down-low. We're trying to convince them that publicizing the full list is in everyone's best interest, but it's not clear if that argument will take.

If you applied for funding, and have been chosen, expect to get that news "soon". The translators among you will know how to translate that "soon" into English. You publishers can probably also figure it out.

If you applied and didn't get it… you may never know! Unless we can talk them into publicizing the list.

By Eric Abrahamsen, August 25 '14, 6:30a.m.

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Winners Announced: China International Translation Contest

Winners of the "2013 China International Translation Contest," co-hosted by the State Council Information Office, Chinese Writer Association and the China International Publishing Group, have been announced. According to 国际翻译大赛, the organizing committee provided 30 pieces of contemporary Chinese short stories from which to choose, and 1,006 renditions were received from over 30 countries in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.


By Bruce Humes, August 24 '14, 3:06p.m.

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CELT Deadline Extension

The deadline for the CELT translation training course has been extended to August 18 (2014), since (for reasons I personally cannot fathom) the number of applicants to date has amounted to something less than a tidal wave.

I want to emphasize what a worthwhile thing this is: personally, the two courses I attended were not only the most helpful things I've done for my development as a translator, they were also instrumental in the solidification of a society of C-E literary translators, a social circle or support group, a mafia even. And needless to say they were a hell of a lot of fun. So do it, already!

See below, and after the jump, for more details:

The Chinese English Literary Translation course will run from 22nd to 27th September 2014 in the Yellow Mountains. The course will offer a mix of literary translation and creative writing workshops, with guest speakers.


By Eric Abrahamsen, August 12 '14, 6:48a.m.

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CELT Rides Again

The notorious – nay, infamous – Chinese-English Literary Translation course is coming around for its third incarnation this coming September (2014). For five days, translators and writers will gather in Huangshan to pick each other's brains, watch each other work, and try to teach each other a little something. Be part of the event that has launched so many illustrious translation careers! Or at least, introduced some fairly interesting people to one another.

This time, the course is being run by the Foreign Languages Teaching and Research Press (FLTRP), in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT), and SAPPRFT.

The course will be held this fall, September 22 to 27. The application deadline is August 10: be sure to send your completed application form and a scan of your passport to before then. Attendance free, but you'll have to get yourself there, and also pay for room and board (I had this wrong intially, my apologies!).

The Chinese-to-English writers and workshop leaders are:

  1. Li Juan, 李娟, led by Andrea Lingenfelter
  2. Li Pingyi, 李平易, led by Bonnie McDougall
  3. A Yi, 阿乙, led by Eric Abrahamsen

For more information about the course, you can download the full information sheet.

By Eric Abrahamsen, July 21 '14, 4:30a.m.

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Free Word Centre, London, 21 July 2014

If you're in London, come and join a lively discussion about the possibility and impossibility of translation, at the FreeWordCentre. Joining Xiaolu Guo for the evening's discussion are her editor-turned-agent Rebecca Carter, and Free Word's former Translator in Residence Nicky Harman. Together, they'll use the novel, I am China as a starting point to explore questions of translation, censorship, Chinese culture, and what it means to call a country your home. Book in advance. It's 21 July 7pm.

By Nicky Harman, July 10 '14, 4:40a.m.

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Call for Academic Translators in the Humanities

My contact with China-focused academic presses has increased substantially over the past three months or so, and each one of them has come back looking for Chinese to English translators qualified to take on academic projects, usually monographs on topics in the humanities -- Chinese social science, political economy, literary history and theory are just a few examples. Sourcing translators for academic work can be harder than sourcing for trade, for reasons I'll list below, so I thought I would put out an open call here to get everyone's attention.


By Canaan Morse, July 9 '14, 11:38a.m.

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International Translation Day, British Library, 26 September 2014

Save the date.

Booking here:

By Nicky Harman, June 13 '14, 12:49p.m.

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Call for China-based "Translator-in-Residence" Program

I recently made a number of suggestions on concrete steps that could help ensure greater success for the “campaign to take Chinese literature global.” They are detailed in Open Letter to China Literary Exports, Inc..

中华读书报 (China Reading Weekly) interviewed me about my proposal, including the establishment of a Translator-in-Residence program. If you'd like to read the interview (in Chinese), and see the part of the draft text that was deleted just before publication, visit 建议建立驻地翻译基金,积极征募外国翻译家到中国短期居住.

By Bruce Humes, June 12 '14, 11:51p.m.

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We're not blocked, are we? 'Course, it's hard to tell these days, they seem to be blocking most everything…

By Eric Abrahamsen, May 24 '14, 4:06a.m.

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China's Banned Books

Great interview on BBC World Service "Fifth Floor"

From the Beeb: "Chan Koon Chung is a Chinese author who writes about ethnicity, sex, and other provocative issues in China. His latest novel has been banned, although like other writers who delve into taboo subjects he remains free to live and continue writing from within China. The book is called The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, and to talk about its themes we've bring together Vincent Ni from BBC Chinese and Juliana Liu who is based in Hong Kong."

With @nivincent, @julianaliu on @BBC5thfloor

But please! #namethetranslator

By Nicky Harman, May 23 '14, 8:25a.m.

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2014 Translation Database at Three Percent's website

2014 Translation Database at Three Percent is an inspiring list in lots of languages. Any books not on the list? Contact: and he'll add them.

By Nicky Harman, May 21 '14, 11:40a.m.

2 comments, viewed 69 times

“Champa the Driver”: Tibetan Dreamer in an Alien Land

        “ Dreams are so good. Why do we have to make them a reality? ”

What’s a young Tibetan stud to do for a living nowadays in a tourist hotspot like Lhasa? And what happens when his childhood dream—to hang out in the capital of a country called China—comes true?

In the just-published The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, author Chan Koonchung takes us on a rocky road from Lhasa to Beijing. Along the way he paints disturbing vignettes. An apartheid-in-the-making. The eerie death wish of a would-be self-immolator. The Kafkaesque “black jails” where provincial petitioners who dare air their grievances to the Beijing Mandarins are brutalized, then sent home.

If they’re lucky, that is.


By Bruce Humes, May 14 '14, 2:16a.m.

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Daughter of the River Review

The following review of Hong Ying's Daughter of the River, by Karen Ma, first ran on the NPR website

Hong Ying's autobiography, Daughter of the River, is doubly astonishing. First, it's an account of the Cultural Revolution that's not written by an intellectual. There's a certain genre of Chinese memoir that looks at upheaval under Mao through an elite lens, and I have to admit, I've been growing tired of those books. But Hong Ying comes from a very different background indeed.

I saw her speak at a literary festival in Jaipur, India in 2011, where she told the audience how she grew up along the Yangtze River in the slums of Chongqing — China's largest and most crowded city — and survived the great famines and Mao's failed political campaigns as a bastard child in abject poverty. I bought her memoir immediately. Her speech had touched me — but her book blew me away.


By Eric Abrahamsen, April 22 '14, 5:47a.m.

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