This morning was the press conference for the Dangdai literary magazine's fifth annual best novel award. Dangdai, which is run by the People's Literature Publishing House, is trying to turn this prize into a bit of a challenge to the hegemony of the bigger prizes administered by the Writers Association: the editor of Dangdai, Yang Xinlan, specifically touted this prize as the non-governmental answer to the Mao Dun prize.
Every literary prize and its brother is touting "transparency" and "fairness" these days, but the Dangdai prize might get a little closer to that goal than most: there is no cash for the winner, reducing some of the incentive for backdoor dealing, and to hear Yang talk, the judges were left unmolested during the nomination process. She even described them as being slightly taken aback when the magazine had no "directives" or even gentle hints as to which direction they should cast their votes — if this is true, it speaks as well for the Dangdai prize as it does poorly for the other prizes.
By Eric Abrahamsen, December 24 '08, 2:28a.m.
According to Yu Hua, a professor of Chinese once ran his book 许三观卖血记 (translated as Chronicle of a Blood Merchant) through the data cruncher, and calculated the number of different characters Yu Hua had used in writing the book. The grand total was 486. Is that even possible?
Update: I asked Yu Hua for more details, he went digging, and it turns out this was quite wrong. The actual numbers are 1,909 characters for Chronicle of a Blood Merchant, and 1,907 characters in To Live. Far more than 486 characters; still far, far less than you'd expect for two of the more influential novels of the past couple decades.
By Eric Abrahamsen, December 22 '08, 7:01p.m.
You readers and lovers of Chinese novels, may we ask your assistance? We're putting together a few lists of books which have not yet been translated into English, but ought to be: from the inexplicably passed-over classics of modern Chinese literature to last year's sleeper hit. What gold has yet to be claimed, either deep-buried, or lying on the sidewalk where anyone could pick it up? We're also counting books that have been translated, but translated poorly, so yes – Fortress Besieged counts.
If you're a translator sitting on the book proposal that's going to make your career, we can sympathize if you keep mum, but we hope the rest of you will cut loose.
I'll start: Jia Pingwa's 废都 (Abandoned Capital). Why the hell is this not in English yet?
By Eric Abrahamsen, December 11 '08, 3:48p.m.
The Chinalyst Best China Blogs contest is open (actually, it's been open for a while) and PR is now in the running! We got a late start, but I'm absolutely confident that with a little publicity we can pull into at least second or third in our category (General).
Here's the link to our category. Go vote!
By Canaan Morse, December 4 '08, 2:43p.m.
Yan Lianke’s latest novel – a satirical take on the less-than-honourable behaviour of Beida and Tsinghua University professors – aroused a storm of protest from some of them. So I was looking forward to this week’s post-graduate seminar in the Beida Chinese Department, where Elegy and Academe was due to be discussed.
By Nicky Harman, December 4 '08, 5:02a.m.
Feng Tang is talking at the One Way Street Bookstore this Sunday (Dec 7) from 3pm to 5pm, details here.
By Eric Abrahamsen, December 1 '08, 7:31a.m.