By Nicky Harman, March 1, '18
I was asked to produce a list of the ten best novels in translation for the China in Context book festival weekend, which focusses this year on translation. I managed to slip "of the" into the title, and have emphasised it's a very personal list. And I guess any publicity (for Chinese literature) is good publicity!
Chinese media report that prolific Xi’an-based novelist Hong Ke (红柯), who was long captivated by the multiethnic history of Xinjiang, died on February 24, 2018 (突发: 陕西著名作家红柯去世享年56岁).
He left his native Shaanxi for Xinjiang in 1983 and lived for a decade in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture bordering on Mongolia and Russia. Although he returned to Shaanxi and took up university teaching positions in Xi’an, Hong Ke --- a Han who never mastered any language but Mandarin --- was deeply inspired by the cultural fusion he discovered in China's far northwest, and subsequently penned numerous novels and short stories set in Xinjiang that feature historical and legendary characters from China's various ethnicities. See here for his Chinese novels, here for an English excerpt from one of them, Urho (乌尔和), and here for excellent backgrounder on him in French.
“A Hero Born” is the first of the 12 volumes of “Legends of the Condor Heroes”, written in the late 1950s. Set in the years after 1205, it enjoyably wields the weapons of wuxia -- traditional martial-arts fiction, with its spectacular combat and pauses for philosophy -- to show Chinese identity under threat from foreign and domestic foes. “Three generations of useless emperors” have brought the Song dynasty to its knees. Quisling allies of the Jurchen Jin invaders, who rule the north, abet imperial decline.
Enter the dragons of salvation: an “eccentric” kung fu clan known as the Seven Freaks of the South, and the militant Taoist monks of the Quanzhen sect. They are first rivals, then collaborators. Though strained, their joint mission embodies a pact between “physical force” and the “more enlightened path” of wisdom that may rescue China.
The novel [The Stolen Bicycle] shows us the talent but also the personality of the novelist: his obsession with ecology is obvious as his passion for bicycles; he even toured Taiwan on an old collector’s bike to promote his novel! A specialist of butterflies, the novelist evokes the industry around them and collages made with their wings.
His family is a central theme and there are many references to the Chunghua Shopping Center where the family worked and lived. Finally, as in other books, he immerses us into the history of Taiwan, Japanese colonization and aboriginals but underlines: “I did not write this novel out of nostalgia but out of respect for an era I did not experience."
Nevertheless, the unifying theme of the novel is the search for a lost father whom the narrator hopes to find by his bicycles which were stolen or lost or abandoned.
(The book is reviewed in both French and English)
LiT Program residencies are an exceptional opportunity for international writers and English-language translators to create new work individually and in collaboration, to find a wider audience for contemporary writers through translation, and to participate in literary exploration and cultural exchange as members of the global creative community at VSC.
From The Metropole, 8 Feb 2018.
By Kristin Stapleton, a member of the board of directors of the Urban History Association and of the Global Urban History Project. She teaches history at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. Her research focuses on urban administration in China and representations of cities in Chinese fiction. She is the author of Fact in Fiction: 1920’s China and Ba Jin’s Family
By Helen Wang, February 4, '18
In 2016 Minjie Chen, Anna Gustafsson Chen and I started a blog/web-resource Chinese Books for Young Readers. We just posted our 60th piece. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way. Keep following!
-- See the full list with weblinks here
U.S. publishers cross borders to import more children’s books from China, as Chinese publishers create contemporary stories. - a long article by Karen Springen (paywalled)
Whenever I translate, I first read the original text carefully and internalize the ideas as clearly as I can, letting them slosh back and forth in my mind. It’s not that the words of the original are sloshing back and forth; it’s the ideas that are triggering all sorts of related ideas, creating a rich halo of related scenarios in my mind. Needless to say, most of this halo is unconscious. Only when the halo has been evoked sufficiently in my mind do I start to try to express it—to “press it out”—in the second language. I try to say in Language B what strikes me as a natural B-ish way to talk about the kinds of situations that constitute the halo of meaning in question.
Fiction bestsellers in China last year were dominated by non-Chinese authors, according to OpenBook, while homegrown authors sold better in nonfiction.
As nationalism continues to influence American politics, the National Book Awards adds a category for translated literature with ‘the power to touch us as American readers.’
Guidelines for censorship in the Xi Jinping Era have tightened considerably for all, be they bloggers, reporters or novelists, but for minority authors who wish to highlight the culture or challenges facing non-Han peoples within today’s PRC, the obstacles to publication and the list of “unmentionables” is even longer. Aside from a shortage of translators working from indigenous languages into Mandarin or foreign languages, there is also the subtle impact of state- and self-censorship that ensures certain “ethnic realities” are rarely depicted, be it in a magazine, book or online, in reportage or even fictional form. A Uyghur businessman who tries to book a room in Shanghai may be informed the hotel is full, or face interrogation from a policeman; a community of Mongolian herders may be conveniently classified as “ecological migrants” (生态移民), given negligible compensation and forced to relocate, in order to make way for a profitable mining project or power plant; and a rural Tibetan dweller may be refused entry to Lhasa, home to innumerable sites sacred to indigenous Buddhists, because he lacks a travel permit to enter the administrative capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Such real-life phenomena are contentious and perceived by the authorities as likely to breed “inter-ethnic” discontent, and when mentioned in literary works or reportage are heavily redacted or simply not published. Very occasionally, however, a minority author — as in the excerpt below — manages to skirt the censors and turn the spotlight on burning issues.
Congratulations to Aili Mu, with Mike Smith, for their book Contemporary Chinese Short-Short Stories: A Parallel Text (Columbia University Press, 2017)
- see which short stories were chosen here
“Somewhere in…” is a monthly column from the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative that addresses international censorship issues.
By Eric Abrahamsen, January 23, '18
Pathlight Magazine, a Paper Republic publication, is looking for a new
The position is about half time (though sometimes busier than others),
and based in Beijing. You will be working together (mostly remotely)
with Paper Republic editors, and with People’s Literature Magazine,
our Chinese partners. Responsibilities include:
- Keeping the magazine to a quarterly publication schedule.
- Working with Paper Republic and People’s Literature to
collectively choose a theme and a table of contents for each issue.
- Assigning and collecting translations.
- Editing translations, or assigning editing work to other editors.
- Doing social media promotion.
We’ll provide translator and editor resources, and help connect you
with everyone you need to talk to.
Salary is paid per issue, and is competitive.
Our ideal candidate:
- Is in Beijing.
- Is a Chinese => English translator. One of the strengths of
Pathlight is that our translations are edited by translators.
- Is organized, and not afraid to crack the whip.
- Is conversant with contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry.
- Has some familiarity with digital publishing, including using
InDesign and manipulating epub files.
- Has a bit of experience dealing with Chinese government-owned
- Would be available to start in the next couple months.
Interested parties please email email@example.com.
By Eric Abrahamsen, January 16, '18
Spurred by Three Percent's new searchable database of translations, in particular the ability to add new or missing titles, I've finally gotten around to finishing the first version of a similar "suggestions" function for the Paper Republic database of translated Chinese literature.
You can find the "Suggest an addition" link on the left-hand side of the PR pages, or follow this link directly. Right now it's limited to suggesting works of literature (though there's a write-in field for authors who aren't in the database), but I hope to eventually expand the options. If you're adding new works of literature to the database, please remember that Chinese originals and English translations have equal standing, so make two suggestions.
And thanks! If you have any suggestions about the suggestion (meta-suggestions!), please leave them in comments on this post.
By Nicky Harman, January 14, '18
In-depth article about Jia Zhangke and the Pingyao film festival, including a mention and still from Han Dong's debut A Night at the Wharf [《在码头》] (Han Dong directed, Jia Zhangke produced): https://www.filmcomment.com/article/jia-zhangke-pingyao-film-festival/
203: Books reviewed in 2017
Number of reviewed books by country of author (51 countries in total):
- France 27.5
- Japan 26
- US 20.5
- UK 16
- Italy 10
- Spain 10
- Russia 8
- India 6
- Romania 5
- Belgium 4
By David Haysom, December 30, '17
Which works of sci fi were worth reading this year? Whose fiction has forged a new way of representing dialect in literature? Why are Chinese authors reading the critic James Wood? And what was life like for Communist guerrillas in the jungles of 1980s Malaysia? Find out in our list of the best books published in Chinese in 2017, as chosen by Paper Republic and friends!
YUNNAN, Southwest China — Guo Youzhen takes a deep breath and starts singing about the origins of the universe.
She sings of Gezi, the Creator, who forged the earth and the sky from nothing. She sings of Ah Fu, whose three sons clung fast to the edge of the sky and hauled it downward to meet the earth below. She sings of the pythons that encircled the earth and divided it into uplands and lowlands, the ants that nibbled at the ground’s frayed edges until they all lay straight, and the menagerie of wild animals that applied the finishing touches.
Three pairs of boars, three pairs of elephants,
dug the soil for 77 days and nights.
They made the mountains; they made the hills.
They made the flats, and the beds that water fills.
Guo reaches the end of the verse and pauses for breath. “It’s a very long song,” she smiles. “You could sing for three days and nights, and still not reach the end.”
Big sky, small world — this is right.
Heaven and earth are well-aligned.
There are only a handful of people left who can sing the creation myths of the Yi people, one of China’s 55 official ethnic minorities, from start to finish. The myths form the centerpiece of meige, a style of sung storytelling that has been passed down among Yunnan province’s Yi communities for centuries.
By Nicky Harman, December 18, '17
Edizioni Ca' Foscari are proud to announce the publication of the first volume of the peer-reviewed series "Translating Wor(l)ds". Littérature chinoise et globalisation. Enjeux linguistiques, traductologiques et génériques, edited by Nicoletta Pesaro and Yinde Zhang, is available in open access here
Lots of interesting articles by eminent translators and academics like Martina Codeluppi, Nicoletta Pesaro, Victor Vuilleumier, Yinde Zhang, Shuang Xu, Noël Dutrait, Paolo Magagnin and Barbara Leonesi.
On the list: Can Xue/Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping, and Chan Ho-Kei/Jeremy Tiang.
It is timely to encounter these works [essays in Jottings] today, for although the People’s Republic is anything but voiceless under Xi Jinping, it has paradoxically become silent. Censorship and fear are commonplace, as has so often been the case in the past, and there is cowed conformity. Instead of celebrating a polyphony of voices, Xi Jinping and his propagandists extol Official China, one that speaks in a monotone allowing only for one, unified narrative: “The China Story.” In this story dissent has been quelled and heterodox views eliminated.
Conditions in China, with strong government controls over (physical) publication -- of books and magazines -- certainly were conducive to an explosive growth of online publication unlike anywhere else. As Hockx notes, the requirement of a 'book number' (ISBN) for the publication of any book in China has presented a considerable hurdle, and allowed for continued strong state control over what gets published in physical form. While online-publishing is not a "free-for-all from which state regulators have withdrawn entirely", control has been both lighter and not as far-reaching -- including for the simple logistical reason that it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything published online. Hockx provides numerous interesting examples of how the state has tried to maintain order -- and what the red lines are (such as the treatment of sexually explicit material) --, as well the evasive maneuvers authors and publishers can take, such as avoiding the use of terms that are readily flagged (and coming up with creative substitutes).
Dà Zhōnghuá Júyùwǎng 大中华局域网
Qualifications for entrance to Chinternet: 1) Server based on the mainland, where the law permits censorship and unrestricted government access to end-user data, 2) For sites with servers outside the PRC, politically correct content
According to the company's [China Reading's] IPO prospectus, during the first half of 2017, active users of the reading platform reached 191.8 million, comprising 179.3 million smart phone users and 12.5 million computer surfers. Its business models in forms of VIP charges and categorized authors lead in the online reading industry, thanks to the industrial mogul Wu Wenhui, who initiated and promoted the acquisition and founded the online publishing and reading function.
The major revenue source is readers' fees - exemplified by China Reading's 84.9 percent of income generated by payments for online reading during the first half of 2017.
Just one of the many articles and interviews anticipating Anna Holmwood's translation of "A Hero Born", the first volume in Jin Yong's series Legends of the Condor Heroes. Publication due February 2018 - we can't wait!
By Helen Wang, November 21, '17
As usual, we at Paper Republic have assembled a list of book-length translations from Chinese into English over the year. Congratulations to all authors and translators! This year’s list is longer than ever, and several books have won international prizes. Your additions, comments, corrections to this list are welcome - please leave a comment below and we’ll update the list.
This is our sixth annual list; previous lists are here: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
By David Haysom, November 19, '17
The inaugural EU-China International Literary Festival is taking place this week, with authors from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovakia taking part in events with local authors across Beijing and Chengdu.
Visit the official site for a complete list of events (many of which will be live streamed).
Holmwood said that many Chinese fans of Jin Yong have been “quite obsessed” with how she would translate the myriad names of martial arts moves in the novels in particular. Some of the translations used by Holmwood include “Branch Beats the White Chimpanzee,” “Nine Yin Skeleton Claw,” and “Lazy Donkey Roll”—a move whose true strength is belied by its apparent softness, she explained.
Home to more than 300 million children, China presents the world’s largest market for such books. According to a report by state news agency Xinhua, around 40,000 children’s titles of all kinds are published in China every year. However, in 2015, over 15,500 titles were imported, and only about 8,000 Chinese works were exported. Still, the nearly 2-to-1 ratio marked the best year for Chinese books in two decades — it was once 48-to-1.
By Nicky Harman, November 16, '17
Today's news: our very own Helen Wang has been recognised on the international stage for her “special contribution” to children’s literature at the 2017 Chen Bochui International Children's Literature Awards in Shanghai. Details in this link.