Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

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Gushi Shines Spotlight on PRC Online Non-fiction

By Nicky Harman, March 16, '20

Hong Kong translator and editor Min Lee, formerly of Chinarrative, has launched a separate newsletter spotlighting reader-generated Chinese non-fiction. Gushi focuses on extended essays on everyday life from the general public published in PRC online platforms. The first few issues feature stories set against the coronavirus outbreak in China. Please take a look. If you like what you read, do subscribe and spread the word.

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Lovecraftian Chinese horror

By Dylan Levi King, March 10, '20

The Flock of Ba-Hui and Other Stories from Camphor Press, a collection of Lovecraftian horror by a pseudonymous author is among the more interesting works to appear recently in translation from Chinese.

Of course, web novels and online writing have made it into translation before. I’m thinking of Shen Haobo 沈浩波, who made a name from poems published online (and who once made a living as a publisher of online lit), and also Murong Xuecun 慕容雪村, whose Leave Me Alone was first posted online—some of that has made it to ink and paper, but most of the translation of web stuff remains online, and it’s mostly in the form of light novels, like Godly Stay-Home Dad 神级奶爸 and the nearly 5000 chapter Martial God Asura 修罗武神 (it could be 10,000 chapters by now).

I’ve pulled examples from two extremes—work mostly of interest to academics on one side, wildly popular wuxia fantasies on the other—but the stories in The Flock of Ba-Hui probably sit somewhere in the middle: still genre fiction but from a slightly more serious tradition, and written with more attention to the craft. They were culled from the Ring of Wonder, a discussion board for fantasy worlds, games, and literature.


In Search of New Team Members: A Call to Arms

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 4, '20

Paper Republic has moved into a new era. Our mission is to promote Chinese literature in English translation, focussing on new writing from contemporary Chinese writers, and we recently registered as a charity in the UK, registration number 1182259. New era, new ambitions. We're growing, and we need new people to join our non-profit management team.

In particular, the wonderful Dave Haysom, who helped us develop the Paper Republic platform, is having to step back to focus on his job. Right now, we need someone with an interest in the social media side of things, and someone with an interest in running projects.

  • Are you interested in Chinese literature in translation? You don't have to be a translator, though it will help if you've done a bit.
  • Do you know about (or are you willing to learn about) creating posts or Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and our website? And can you come up with new ideas? Our marketing and social media profile is key to getting more people reading more Chinese literature in translation.
  • Are you interested in managing a project? Apart from maintenance of the website, Paper Republic is a project-based organization. Everyone on the management team is responsible for taking the lead on a project at some point.
  • Are you comfortable with technology? We exist mostly online, and are located around the world. That means that most of what we do is done through internet communications. Everyone does a bit of website data entry, as well!
  • Are you willing to join management meetings via Slack. These can be at ungodly hours (our other team members are scattered in China, the west coast of America and the UK). Meetings are every two to three weeks for about an hour. Other business gets discussed by email.
  • Are you willing to volunteer your services? Our management team consists of five volunteers. You would be the sixth or seventh member of our team. The management work is unpaid, although we always aim to pay translators and editors. It doesn’t matter where you live, so long as your time zone means you can join our Slack meetings.

What will you get out of it?

  • You’ll be giving something back, to Chinese literature and the wider Chinese translation community
  • You’ll be working on a website that has an international reputation (the London Book Fair judges in 2016 called us the go-to place for Chinese translations and translators)
  • For more than ten years, Paper Republic has shaped people’s views of Chinese literature in translation all over the word.
  • You’ll be joining a community of translators, and you’ll learn professional skills (and we hope we’ll learn from you).

If you're interested, please drop us a note (and a CV) via email:

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Silk Road Update: GoogleTranslate Now Does Uyghur

By Bruce Humes, February 27, '20

GoogleTranslate offers translation to/from several of China's indigenous languages, the latest being Uyghur.

Others are Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz and Mongolian.

Turkmen and Tatar have also just joined the club -- and Turkish had long been available -- so Google Translate is doing a decent job of adding Turkic languages.

But in terms of written scripts used by a large number of PRC citizens, one stands out as missing on this list: Tibetan. It appears that its inclusion is underway, but I don't have any details.

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单向空间 OWSpace Bookstores Struggling to Survive

By David Haysom, February 25, '20

The One-Way bookstores have been a home for literature for the last fifteen years, providing space on their shelves for the kind of books that are hard to find anywhere else, as well as hosting literary talks and events with local and international authors. Now, with the impact of COVID-19 bringing their business to a standstill, they are in need of donations just to be able to keep paying rent.

In this Wechat post they explain that they have only been able to keep one of their four stores open. That one store, in a Beijing shopping mall that now has a tenth of its usual customers, has been selling no more than a handful of books a day. Restrictions on delivery services have also taken a huge chunk out of their online sales.

OWSpace are the publishers of One-Way Street Magazine (单读): an outstanding literary journal, a rare independent voice in contemporary Chinese media, and our collaborators for the "Read Paper Republic: Dispatches" series of creative non-fiction pieces. Last year, a profile in Neocha described the publication as "a journal that thinks books and ideas are worth arguing about [...] a platform for opinions, articles of faith, and moments of doubt—in short, a public conversation about cultural life."

To support OWSpace and One-Way Street Magazine – and everything they do for the literary scene in China – you can make a donation here.

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Marketing Translated Literature: High-cost but Compelling Approach

By Bruce Humes, February 5, '20

Just got the following email from a publisher of translated contemporary Arabic literature:

Email content

Pretty impressive: One-click access to video of author speaking (in Arabic with English sub-titles) about the novel; lengthy English-language extract; background info about the author; link to publisher's blog where one can find some authors personally reading their work, etc.

Has any publisher of Chinese literature in translation done something along these lines?


Two New “Ethnic” Novels from China for 2020

By Bruce Humes, January 26, '20

Two potentially controversial novels — one by a Uyghur author, and the other by a Tibetan — have recently been published in English. They are part of the Kaleidoscope Series of China’s Ethnic Authors sponsored by China Translation & Publishing House, a dozen or so novels by authors that highlight tales in which non-Han culture, motifs and characters play a key role (民族题材文学).

Patigül’s Bloodline (百年血脉) relates the semi-autobiographical tale of a Xinjiang native, daughter of a Uyghur father and Hui mother, who marries a Han, and struggles to bring up a family in mainstream Chinese society. Told in the first person, it unflinchingly describes her mother’s mental illness, her brother’s agonizing death from an STD and tribulations of a “mixed” marriage. For an English excerpt, visit here.

Tsering Norbu’s Prayers in the Wind (祭语风中) narrates the subsequent life of a Buddhist monk who attempts — unsuccessfully — to exit China in the wake of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and the Dalai Lama’s flight to India. For an excerpt, visit here.

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2019 Publications in Chinese

By David Haysom, December 21, '19

As the year comes to a close, we’ve asked authors, translators, editors, and other friends of Paper Republic to recommend notable books published in Chinese in 2019 – translations into Chinese as well as original works. The resultant list gives an insight into the titles that have made an impression this year – and perhaps offers a preview of some of the books we can hope to see available in English soon!