Our News, Your News
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.
The weakening of China’s book industry started long before the outbreak. It was like the sickly plant that I had on the windowsill: even as I looked after it daily, watering it, trying to kill the mold, pumping a few drops of nutrients from time to time, it continued yellowing and withering away, silently and mysteriously.
Here are two linked blogposts about ”The Japan-China-Korea Peace Picture Book Project” — a great project “to document the past honestly, share today’s sorrow, and create a peaceful tomorrow together” - 11 books on war translated, published and shared in all three countries - by David Jacobson, Minjie Chen, Reiko Nakaigawa Lee, and Jongsun Wee.
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.
Over at chinese-shortstories.com, Brigitte Duzan has just (March 8) posted a very topical, moving and insightful essay featuring excerpts from 封城日记 (Quarantine Diary), by Wuhan-based author Fang Fang (方方). Duzan's piece shines the light on writers and intellectuals who, despite censorship, are speaking out on the very taboo subject of China under the Coronavirus lock-down. It touches on a cast of writers and intellectuals, as well as literary genres, including Yan Lianke (阎连科), Lu Xün (鲁迅), Xie Bingying (谢冰莹) and her Army Diary (从军日记) of the 1930s, professor Dai Jianye (戴建业), Hu Shuli (胡舒立) and controversial reportage by Caixin magazine that she heads, and more.
Worth a read:
La quarantaine à Wuhan : chronique de Fang Fang, poèmes et autres témoignages
Translated from the Tibetan by Françoise Robin, the French rendition of Tsering Dondrup's Tempête rouge -- reportedly the premier modern Tibetan novel and certainly the only one to deal critically with China's invasion of Tibet -- has just been awarded the prestigious Prix Montluc Résistance et Liberté. It thus joins the recently published The Handsome Monk and Other Stories, from the same author, translated into English by Christopher Peacock.
A brief backgrounder on the novel and its author:
Issu d’une communauté de pasteurs nomades, Tsering Dondrup (né en 1961) écrit depuis les années 1980 et a fondé une des premières revues littéraires indépendantes du Tibet. Ses dizaines de nouvelles et ses six romans ont été accueillis depuis avec enthousiasme par le lectorat tibétain, en raison de leur mélange d’humour et de noirceur. Tempête rouge ne fait pas exception : seul et unique roman tibétain décrivant l’invasion chinoise du Tibet, il n’épargne ni les cadres corrompus ni les lamas vénaux. A la sortie du roman, en 2006, Tsering Dondrup a été radié du poste qu’il occupait aux archives de son district et qui lui donnait accès aux informations confidentielles ayant nourri les faits relatés ici. Le roman a été immédiatement interdit par les autorités chinoises et son auteur s’est vu confisquer son passeport.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
Did you know that, like many of China's major seaports, Hankou (Wuhan) hosted concessions granted to the British in 1858, and eventually the Belgians, French, Germans, Japanese and Russians?
Anna Gustafsson Chen has interviewed Jennifer Feeley, and reviewed her translation of Chen Jiatong's children's novel White Fox. Two consecutive posts - read them both!
For those of you who would like to learn a bit about China’s pre-21st century experience in dealing with epidemics, I’ve woven together three topical items, all of which center around an epidemic that took place in early 1900s China. They include news about the upcoming launch of a French translation of a “plague” novel — 《白雪乌鸦》by a Chinese author — and an English excerpt (in case your French isn’t quite up to par) . . .
Bertrand Mialaret's latest essay discusses various French and English translations of Yan Lianke's novels
By Bruce Humes, February 5, '20
Just got the following email from a publisher of translated contemporary Arabic literature:
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?
In Beijing’s night, neon lights flash on and off and the shadows of Beijing’s inhabitants flicker indistinctly. Packs of cars on the main roads form a river of light. In the midst of that river—constantly flowing like the kleshas of desire, hatred, and ignorance and glittering like the variegated colors of the objects of earthly desire—the lights spewed forth from the depths of the night.
(translated by Kati Fitzgerald)
From the book’s earliest essays, it becomes clear how Sanmao’s whimsical solo traveler persona came to symbolize an alternative way of life among her earliest generation of readers, whose own lives were shaped by the oppressive political environments of mainland China and Taiwan during the 1970s.
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.
By Nicky Harman, January 23, '20
Registration for the Warwick Translates Summer School has now opened! Details here. It takes place 8-12 July 2020 inclusive, and there will be a Chinese-to-English option, led by Nicky Harman.
Perhaps the most welcome development of all was an English-language translation of Louis "Jin Yong” Cha Leung-yung’s wuxia Condor trilogy, overseen by Anna Holmwood and published by the MacLehose Press. All the concerns of English-speaking editors, who wondered whether readers outside China could cope with Cha’s epic, almost metaphysical fights, melted away in the course of two wonderful novels. A Snake Lies Waiting, part three of a projected 12 books, is due in early 2020. Sadly, Cha died only a few months after part one was released, in 2018.
The success of all these books owes much to an impressive generation of translators, arguably the most famous of whom is Ken Liu. An admired novelist in his own right, he is even more celebrated for his role in this golden age of Chinese science-fiction.
His first act was to translate the Three-Body Problem trilogy, by Liu Cixin, which has become a global phenomenon since part one appeared in 2014 (six years after the Chinese version).
On Saturday June 29, 2019, Britain’s third plaque to a Chinese person – the writer and artist Chiang Yee (蒋彝) – was unveiled in the university town of Oxford.
Du Fu, the eighth-century Chinese poet now lauded as one of the greatest wordsmiths who ever lived, resided in a humble thatched hut in Chengdu at the peak of his literary life. He wrote lyrically about cooking cold noodles garnished with the leaves of the scholartree, but he never had a fried chicken sandwich or a Pepsi. Yet at a KFC in the heart of Chengdu, a holographic pyramid beams 3-D images of his hut in spring, summer, winter, and fall.
In a new essay on author Xiao Hong (萧红), Mialaret points out that neither film director Ann Hui nor literary translator Howard Goldblatt seem to have done justice to her work.
Mialaret also notes a 2019 French translation of her 《呼蘭河傳》, Souvenirs de Hulan He by Simone Cross-Morea.
On an auspicious day, two families from Ne’u na Village, a small village along the Yellow River in Western China’s Qinghai Province, gather to celebrate a wedding. The day has been chosen specifically for this purpose. Midway through the wedding banquet, a man stands before the crowd already so drunk that his words are almost unintelligible, and he speaks. He begins with an invocation to several deities, and then a statement about how auspicious this day is and how it has been chosen specifically for this purpose. After describing the beautiful dress of the bride down to the smallest hair ornament, he begins to describe Tibet and its geographic and historical relations with Nepal and China. Next, with exquisite imagery, he tells of the unique physical environment of the Tibetan plateau, and finally he discusses the beauty and auspiciousness of the very village in which the wedding is being held. At every turn this area and its people are described with detailed references to the religious and natural worlds in which Tibetans live. The speech is the highlight of the wedding in Ne’u na. Following the speech, guests offer gifts to the new couple—first from the groom’s side, then from the bride’s—and people from both sides begin antiphonal singing until late into the night.
Most of China’s major entertainment publications thoroughly cover the Oscars each year, so when the Academy announced its 15 shortlisted films for the 2020 Best Documentary Feature award, many Chinese publications covered it. But each paper had a peculiarity in common: they each listed only 14 films.
One Child Nation, the documentary about China’s one-child policy that I co-directed with my friend Jialing Zhang, is included in this year’s shortlist, but no Chinese publication has made any mention of it. Any person living in China who might be following the Oscars would have no way of knowing that a Chinese film is a contender in this year’s documentary category. Even for people who have heard of the film, searching for the Chinese translation of the film’s title (独生子女国度 or 独生之国) within China generates no results, except for this message: “the result of this search cannot be displayed because it violates related laws and regulations.”
When I was a university student in Beijing in the early ’90s, I stumbled upon an academic article by Zhao Liming, a professor at Tsinghua University’s Chinese language department, about a little-known script used only by women in a corner of the southern province of Hunan. Days after, I bought the small book she had written on the subject, Nüshu—A Surprising Discovery, and read it as fast as my eyes, and my Chinese reading skills, allowed. I was hooked: The word nüshu refers to a script used by women in Jiangyong—a small county in the province’s southernmost tip—to transcribe the local lingo. As soon as I could, I made the first of many trips there.
By David Haysom, December 28, '19
Now you've read our 2019 lists of English translations and books published in Chinese, here's a preview of some of the translations that will be hitting your shelves in 2020!
The Communist Party’s publicity department told publishers this year that the total number of books getting approvals would shrink, that domestic authors would be favored and that titles that promoted the party and China’s capitalism-infused version of socialism would be most encouraged.
If the enemy commander is avid for advantage, use
it to lure him in;
If he is volatile, seize upon that;
If he is solid, prepare well for battle;
If he is strong, evade him.
If he is angry, rile him.
If he is unpresuming, feed his arrogance.
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!