Jia Pingwa (1952- ) stands with Mo Yan and Yu Hua as one of the biggest names in contemporary Chinese literature. A prolific producer of novels, short stories and essays, he has a tremendous audience on the Chinese mainland, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Although several of his works have already appeared in translation, like many famous Chinese authors, his reputation abroad does not as of yet match his reputation at home.
An early English translation of his 1988 novel Turbulence by Howard Goldblatt won the Mobil Pegasus Prize for Literature and was subsequently published by Louisiana State University Press in 1991 (later republished by Grove Press in 2003). In 1997, his 1993 bestseller Ruined Capital was first published abroad in French by Éditions Stock as La Capitale déchue (Abandoned Capital), translated by Genevieve Imbot-Bichet. It was finally published in English translation in January, 2016, again by Howard Goldblatt, this time as part of the Chinese Literature Today Book Series. Meanwhile in 2014, Happy was published in Swedish as Lyckan by Wanzhi Press, translated by Anna Gustafsson Chen, and in late 2015 it was announced that Nicky Harman had signed on to translate the novel into English for AmazonCrossing, to be published in 2017. More recently, CN Times Books has signed a contract with Carlos Rojas to translate Jia's 2013 novel The Lantern Bearer.
Jia Pingwa's fiction focuses on the lives of common people, particularly in his home province of Shaanxi, and is well-known for being unafraid to explore the realm of the sexual. Ruined Capital was banned for many years for that same reason, and pirated copies sold on the street for several thousand RMB apiece. The novel was finally unbanned in 2009, one year after Jia won the Mao Dun Award for his 2005 novel Shaanxi Opera. His longer narratives are heavy on detail, almost to the point of being digressive, but he does pay attention to his characters.
About Jia Pingwa, in English
- Narrating China: Jia Pingwa and his Fictional World by Yiyan Wang (Routledge Contemporary China Series, 2006).
- ‘The Macho Eunuch: The Politics of Masculinity in Jia Pingwa's “Human Extremities”’ by Kam Louie, Modern China Vol. 17, No. 2, 163-187 (1991)
- ‘Flies’ Eyes, Mural Remnants, and Jia Pingwa’s Perverse Nostalgia’ by Carlos Rojas, positions: east Asia cultures critique 14.3 (2006) 749-773