Our News, Your News

Nicky Harman wins the Special Book Award of China

By Helen Wang, December 10, '20

Nicky Harman has just won a major award in China - The Special Book Award of China. It’s the 14th year of the awards and they are a big thing. As she was unable to attend the ceremony in China, on Monday, one of her publishers (Sinoist Books) and Guanghwa Bookshop organised a surprise zoom party for her, inviting the Chinese Cultural Attaché, her authors and friends in the Chinese literature community around the world either to attend in person or to send a short video recording. It was wonderful to see everyone! Even the Cultural Attaché, whose role was to be the official, was bowled over by the genuine friendship and informal atmosphere of the occasion - and that it was a meeting of friends! The organisers have just put the highlights on Youtube - https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=jsW1aUsPvds.

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一周一句 Sunday Sentence—Round 2!

By Jack Hargreaves, December 3, '20

The final sentence of series one went up in mid-July. By the end of the week, the total number of translations contributed since the game's beginning by lots of lovely translators, one of whom doesn't read Chinese and two of which were computer programmes, had reached 139 -- if I've counted right that is, which I don't think I did, so let's just go with 'enough to consider a second series'. So here it is!

Well actually, first, we'd like your help. That's right, not only are we asking you to translate this time around, we're inviting you to suggest the sentences too!

Please send any sentence (or two) from Chinese-language fiction that excites, dazzles, bamboozles or floors you to jack@paper-republic.org (sentences from short stories particularly welcome —— you'll find out why later!).

With every submission, please include: the sentence, book/story it is taken from, page number (if you know it), author, and a little context.

We'll start the new series in 2021.

If you missed series one and you're wondering what this is all about, have a look at the series intro here, with links to the sentences we translated over the eight weeks.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!


Nov 24 Webinar: "Uyghur Poetry in Translation"

By Bruce Humes, November 20, '20

"Uyghur Poetry in Translation" live online November 24, 2020 (12:00-13:15, Eastern Time, US)

Opening remarks: Mark Elliott, Harvard’s Vice Provost of International Affairs
Poets performing: Tahir Hamut and Rena Yashar Aybal
Translators to speak: Dr Gülnar Eziz (Harvard Preceptor in Uyghur and Chaghatay), and Dr. Joshua Freeman (Princeton’s Department of East Asian Studies)

Register here

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Nov 13: Chinese LIterature across the Borderlands

By Bruce Humes, November 7, '20

This workshop aims to explore the shifting definitions of the borderland as a territorial gateway, a geopolitical space, a contact zone, a liminal terrain, and an imaginary portal. To this end, participants will explore the intersection of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and ecological dynamics that inform the cartography of the Chinese borderland, from the Northeast to the Southwest, from Inner Mongolia to Tibet, and from Nanyang to Nanmei.

For workshop speakers/themes, click here.

To register and receive a Zoom link, please click here.


Yanshuo Zhang (University of Michigan): Shen Congwen’s Idealized Ethnic: Borderland, Ethnicity, and the Spiritual Enchantments of a Modern Master

Christopher Peacock (Columbia University): “Unsavory Characters: Forced Bilingualism in the Tibetan Fiction of Tsering Döndrup”

Mark Bender (Ohio State University): “Treading Poetic Borders in Southwest China and Northeast India”

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Yan Lianke wins the 2021 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

By Eric Abrahamsen, October 30, '20

From the press release:

The Newman Prize honors Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose generous endowment of a chair at the University of Oklahoma enabled the creation of the OU Institute for US-China Issues in 2006. OU is also home to the Chinese Literature Translation Archive, Chinese Literature Today, World Literature Today and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Juror Eric Abrahamsen said of the winner, “Yan’s writing does for the Chinese heartland what John Steinbeck did for the American West, or Thomas Hardy for Southwest England…he remains vitally invested in the ethical responsibility of the author. Though it has been demonstrated to him again and again that his explorations of China’s historical trauma are not welcome, he seems not to take the hint, and persists in laying bare what he sees as the original sins of modern Chinese society…His stubbornness, and the perpetual freshness of his sorrow over historical tragedy, are worthy of respect.”

See below for the full text of the press release.

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From author to catchphrase and back again: Lu Xun's Weeds

By Dylan Levi King, October 19, '20

In China in Ten Words, Yu Hua describes stubbing his toe on stacks of Lu Xun books gathering dust in the office of a provincial cultural center and saying to himself, "'That guy's days are over, thank goodness!'" (this is from the translation by Allan H. Barr).

As Yu Hua puts it, Lu Xun went "from being an author to being a catchphrase and then back again." Lu Xun’s legacy was flattened in the long half-century after his death. When state control over literature loosened on both sides of the Straits in the ‘80s, attempts were made to reinflate the flattened Lu Xun, but perhaps the damage was already done.

What changed Yu Hua’s mind was picking up the collected short fiction after a director pitched him on writing a script based on some of Lu Xun’s stories.

It made me think back to those books of his under the table in the cultural center, and it seemed to me now that they had been trying to tell me something. When they tripped me up as I went in and out of my office, they were actually dropping a hint, quietly but insistently signaling the presence of a powerful voice within the dusty tomes.

I always found the veneration of Lu Xun understandable, and I appreciate his contributions to contemporary Chinese literature, but I found it hard to see much vital and pressing in his work. Matt Turner’s translation of Lu Xun’s Weeds was a minor revelation last year.

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Interviews with Chinese Women Writers

By Nicky Harman, October 13, '20

Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. In these interviews, we explore how Chinese women authors from mainland China see themselves and their status.

In recent decades in mainland China, there have been vast improvements in standards of living and personal freedoms (to choose one's higher education and career, and to travel, for instance) and a small number of women writers have flourished. For instance, the current head of the China Writers Association, Tie Ning, is a woman. However, women writers still appear to lag far behind their male counterparts in other respects. Only nine of forty-three winners of the Mao Dun Literary Prize were women between 1982 and 2015; as were only twenty-seven of 228 Lu Xun Prize awards (various categories) between 1995 and 2017. And far fewer women are translated into English: of 117 novels translated from Chinese between 2012 and 2018, only thirty-five were by women. Our aim in translating and publishing these interviews is to bring the opinions of Chinese women writers on this topic, in all their variety and complexity, to English-language readers.

Notes: With the exception of Wang Bang, all writers answered in Chinese. The initials of the translator can be found at the end of each interview. Some writers chose to remain anonymous. We have published the response of another writer, Tang Fei, separately. It can be read in Words Without Borders.

Nicky Harman and Natascha Bruce


Diaspora lit: A review of K-Ming Chang's 'Bestiary'

By Bruce Humes, October 1, '20

At the same time that it lays bare the ground that shaped this particular family, “Bestiary” also paints a portrait of Taiwanese identity, poking at the various histories and horrors that built the island and its citizens. A place where “Ma doesn’t measure her life in years but in languages: Tayal and Yilan Creole in the indigo fields where she was born … Japanese during the war, Mandarin in the Nationalist-eaten city. Each language worn outside her body, clasped around her throat like a collar.” From pirates to soldiers and those who came before, the men who claimed Taiwan and the women who sustained it, the country’s evolution is as much a part of the book’s collection of beasts as is the tiger spirit.