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# 1.   

Interesting points. I also recommend reading the previous post he links to about numbers and statistics of translated literature in English and Chinese.


Lucas Klein, August 4, 2013, 11:52p.m.

# 2.   

While I agree with a lot of the points here, I'm curious about the assumptions or premise this post is based on.

For instance, he writes complains that "this book sold (to US publishers, etc.) not on the basis of its Chinese success or qualities, but on the basis of its Italian success." One might think that Italian readers' preferences are no more an indication of successful US sales than are Chinese numbers, but that's not where he goes with this. Rather, he complains about "the usual generic blah-blah about Chinese literature in the 'West'" and "predictable pseudo-insightful (conveniently after the fact ...) quotes."

I also agree that it's very easy to overstate the difference between Chinese and "Western" or even "American" tastes; in my experience, all of this is much more flexible and diverse than most people are willing to consider. Nevertheless, certainly there are significant differences between what readers in different cultures respond to, and those have to play a role in publishers' decisions to publish foreign (or any) literature (as well as translators' decisions of what and how to translate).

There's something I agree with to the post's plaint that "God forbid anyone would simply be trying to buy or sell good books, not worrying about where it was or might be a bestseller." But then again I'm not convinced that what counts as good is so self-evident across cultures, or that the good in literature has any reliable relevance one way or another with what sells well or poorly (Finnegans Wake is evidently a bestseller in Chinese... draw conclusions based on that!).

As a translator, I translate and read for a number of reasons. I want to have a better sense of a given country or culture, I want to know what's going on in the literature or society of a given country or culture, and I want to know what a given country or culture's attitudes toward literature have to say to the attitudes toward literature in the countries or cultures I'm most familiar with. Admittedly that has little to do with the Italian success, say, of Chinese fiction. It does mean, however, that I'll find Li Qingzhao, Cao Xueqin, Wei Hui, Mo Yan, and Xi Chuan good or valuable for different reasons, and my wish is that there are enough publishers who have enough sense of those reasons to (continue to) publish more of all these kinds of works.


Lucas Klein, August 5, 2013, 12:14a.m.

# 3.   

I find it slightly amusing that he's so upset by the fact that the decision to translate was based on a reading of the Italian translation. Does he have any idea of how often publishing decisions in the rest of the world are based on English translations? Are they better than the Italian?

As for the rest, I agree with Lucas. Like it or not, sometimes tastes differ. I've read Chinese thrillers that have sold millions of copies in China but would be considered lousy in Sweden. Good literature does not equal number of sold copies in the country of origin.

Anna GC, August 8, 2013, 3:46a.m.


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