“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

David Haysom


Dave Haysom is a literary translator and editor who has been living in Beijing since 2007. He first started publishing translations online at spittingdog.net in 2012. In 2014 he became joint managing editor of Pathlight, a quarterly journal of Chinese literature in translation, and in 2015 he helped launch “Read Paper Republic”, a year-long initiative to publish one translation online every week. He has also written articles and essays on contemporary Chinese literature for publications such as Words Without Borders and China Dialogue.


Read Paper Republic

Original Works

Essays (2)


Excerpts (1)

Novellas (2)

Essays (2)

Short stories (12)


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2017: Best Books in Chinese

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!


Read Paper Republic: Bare Branches

By David Haysom, November 5, '17

11.11: November 11th, originally a day for singletons in China to either bemoan or celebrate their unattached status, but increasingly an excuse for unbridled consumerism under the auspices of the various online shopping behemoths. At Paper Republic we’re going to be stripping back the commercial self-indulgence and marking the occasion with a new run of four short stories about love, longing, and loneliness. We’re very happy to have Michelle Deeter as our managing editor for the series, which is entitled “Bare Branches” (a literal translation of the Chinese name for the occasion, 光棍节); starting this week, you can look forward to seeing a new story appearing on the site every Thursday for the next month!

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GLLI (3) Chinese Literature FAQ

By David Haysom, February 3, '17

What is this thing you call “Chinese Literature”?
“Chinese literature” is often a conveniently nebulous term that means different things to different people. It can refer to China as a geographical or political entity – except not everyone agrees on what that is. Or it can be a linguistic description, referring to what is sometimes called the “Sinosphere” – except there’s no undisputed definition of what exactly constitutes a language. Depending on where you draw your line, “Chinese literature” may or may not encompass: mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, diaspora authors writing in Chinese, diaspora authors writing in English, and ethnic minority authors writing in completely different languages (such as Tibetan, Mongolian, or Manchu). Many of them would reject the label of “Chinese literature”, and its capacity to cause offence (and incite semantic spats) is far greater than its descriptive utility. And yet, for the sake of convenience, we do need to have some kind of term to refer to this thing we are all interested in, and “Chinese literature” is the best we currently have.


GLLI (2) - Read Paper Republic: An Introduction

By David Haysom, February 2, '17

“I like the idea that you could have actual readable pieces hanging off the database, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. So as you go browsing, you also find things to read.”
“This is something I’m really keen on!”
“A catchy title would help, e.g. #TranslationThursday Weekly Story. (Sorry, that's not very catchy.)”
“We don't necessarily need a catchy name of our own – I think just calling it something like "Paper Republic's Translation of the Week" would work fine.”
“I've been using ‘read’ as a name for things in the backend of the site, and wonder if ‘Read Paper Republic’ might be an okay series title.”
“I like it!”

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Call for Submissions: Megacity Fictions

By David Haysom, November 10, '16


Megacity Fictions aims to investigate how writers and artists are responding to vast cityscapes which mutate and spread at unparalleled rates, often displaying extremes of global wealth and poverty; vertical towers built on new economic wealth surrounded by sprawls of immigrant slums. Submissions in creative non-fiction, fiction, ficto-critical writing and photography, exploring particular megacities, or the concept of massive urban hubs in general, are all invited.

If you're interested in submitting work or volunteering your services as a translator then you can get in touch by email (megacityfictions@gmail.com), or via the form at the Megacity Fictions page here.

Metropolises such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou are all fairly well represented in fiction... but what about the likes of Wuhan and Tianjin? Any ideas?


Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize: The Reaction from Writers in China

By David Haysom, October 21, '16

Yes, China also noticed that Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

It is akin to Cui Jian [崔健] receiving the prize, argues Zhang Yiwu [张颐武], a professor at Peking University. “This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature was a complete surprise, an unexpectedly novel approach – a Black Swan, even. Yes, Bob Dylan has been a global megastar of music since the 1960s, and he influenced the new social movements of the era. But it’s a bold move for a prize that has been a staid presence in the literary landscape for so many years. It’s certainly innovative. In the age of the internet, anything’s possible.”
Chen Xiaoming [陈晓明], another literary critic, has also remarked on the unexpectedness of the award. “Perhaps this is something to do with the personal tastes of the committee,” he suggests, “a moment of nostalgia. Or perhaps reading his biography reminded them of their own youths, like some kind of performance art. Or another possibility is that this is their way of encouraging people to pay less attention to the prize, to stop treating it with such reverance. You’re all expected us to give it to Adonis, well okay then, we’ll give it to Bob Dylan.”
—translated from 诺贝尔文学奖颁给音乐人 为什么是鲍勃·迪伦

Here are a selection of responses from Chinese authors (collected from Weixin and Weibo by the Paper Republic team):


Coming soon – Read Paper Republic: Afterlives

By David Haysom, October 20, '16


Following a brief period of dormancy, Read Paper Republic will be reanimated next Thursday (just in time for Halloween!) with a limited run of six new tales in which death is merely the beginning of the story. Every week, one of these stories – populated with ghosts, memories, and otherworldly reincarnations – will be appearing right here, and they will be completely free to read.

We also have some upcoming events happening in London which we'll be announcing soon – watch this space...

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Wang Anyi receives 2017 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

By David Haysom, September 26, '16

From the Newman Prize homepage:

While the deliberations were tough, after a process of positive elimination voting Wang Anyi emerged as the winner. Wang Anyi’s nominator, Dai Jinhua (戴锦华, Peking University), writes in her nomination statement: “Over the past thirty or more years, Wang Anyi has continuously transformed her writing and altered her literary directions to produce a spectacular array of works, through which she has created a sort of reality of Chinese-language literature, a city in literature, or even a nation in literature.”

Wang Anyi's story "Dark Alley" (translated by Canaan Morse) was the 47th release of Read Paper Republic Season 1.

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Foetal Narrators

By David Haysom, August 28, '16

Nutshell, Ian McEwan’s new novel, is narrated by a sentient foetus who listens in on the Hamlet inspired machinations of his mother’s plot to murder his father. In a Guardian interview, McEwan says he is not aware of any story yet written from the perspective of an unborn child:

“And yet it seemed obvious once I started it.” The idea came to him one day from nowhere, while he was daydreaming. “Suddenly there appeared before me the opening sentence of the novel, which I don’t think I’ve changed, apart from adding ‘So’ in front of it: ‘So, here I am upside down in a woman.’ I thought, who on Earth would say such a thing? Then I immediately thought it would be a lovely rhetorical challenge to write a novel from the point of view of a foetus. The idea struck me as so silly that I just couldn’t resist it.”

Well, 李洱 Li Er, for one, has beaten him to it, with his story 《你在哪》 (translated by Joshua Dyer as “Where Are You?” in the Summer 2015 issue of Pathlight). Here’s how it begins:

Where are you, she asks.

I’ve been here all along. She must be completely blind now. I reach out to touch her. I feel her chest and notice her heartbeat is irregular, sometimes stopping altogether. She lets me touch her ears. I find a thick, sticky pus leaking out.


Interview with Xue Yiwei

By David Haysom, August 27, '16

Reading and books have played a huge role in my life since 1974, when I was 10 years old and the Cultural Revolution was still (underway). That year, through an “underground channel,” I got access to Western classics for the first time. Five years later, the Chinese door was wide open and all kinds of books were flooding in. The influence of existentialism and modernist literature began to exert (itself) on the younger generation.
—interview with 薛忆沩 Xue Yiwei in the Montreal Gazette.

Ken Liu's translation of the Xue Yiwei story "The Taxi Driver" appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Pathlight. "God's Chosen Photographer", translated by Roddy Flagg, will appear in a forthcoming issue.

Shenzheners, a collection of short stories by Xue Yiwei (translated by Darryl Sterk) is out next month.

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