How dull to have a gun and not shoot. Guns should be fired.

Fu Yuli / Nicky Harman

Eric Abrahamsen

Beijing, China


Eric has lived in Beijing since late 2001, when he studied Chinese at the Central University for Nationalities. He began struggling through Wang Xiaobo at an early date, and kept at it through the intervening years. He is the recipient of a PEN translation grant for Wang Xiaobo's My Spiritual Homeland and a NEA grant for Xu Zechen's Running Through Zhongguancun, later published as Running Through Beijing.

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Three Chances to See Ge Fei in New York

By Eric Abrahamsen, October 6, '16

Ge Fei's new English novel, The Invisibility Cloak, translated by our own Canaan Morse, is out next week, published by The New York Review of Books Press next week. Ge Fei is visiting the Big Apple and environs, and those of you in Manhattan or Brooklyn have three chances to see him talk about his new book!

  1. The first event is at Columbia University on October 12th (Wednesday) starting at 4pm, where Ge Fei will be joined by Canaan to discuss the book.

  2. Then later that evening (October 12th, 7pm) Ge Fei appears at the Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, in conversation with Michael Barron.

  3. Lastly, he'll be at the China Institute on the 13th (Thursday) at 6:30pm, with Zhang Xudong.

If you're in town, take the opportunity to see Ge Fei talk! He's a great writer, a great big brain, and a wonderful speaker.



By Eric Abrahamsen, October 3, '16

We've got a new look! With thanks to Sun Xiaoxi, the designer behind the 2015 BIBF look. 21st century, here we come!

It's possible that people using truly ancient versions of Internet Explorer might have some difficulties – please let me know in the comments.

Meanwhile, this will be a good starting place from which to start working on better entry points to the database. A nice winter project...


PEN Presents Open for Submissions

By Eric Abrahamsen, September 23, '16

English PEN has this program called "PEN Presents", where they provide translators with funding to promote books they want to translate, and this year they're accepting applications from East and South-East Asia. From their announcement

PEN Presents aims to help publishers to discover – and publish – the most exciting books from around the world, whilst supporting emerging translators in their development as advocates for international literature. Each year the initiative presents six exciting books by contemporary authors, recommended by literary translators, which have not yet been acquired for English-language publication. Each round of PEN Presents focusses on a different region of the world.

They're working with the Asia Literary Review for this year's program – see this link for application instructions. The deadline is December 5, 2016.

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BIBF Literary Salons: Midpoint

By Eric Abrahamsen, August 25, '16

So we're about halfway through our program of literary events surrounding the 2016 Beijing International Book Fair, which so far has been great fun. Last year, the first year Paper Republic did these "Literary Salons", we were too exhausted to post about this at all, let alone halfway through the program, so I suppose this is progress! To me, it's clear what "progress" consists of: more hands on deck. Last year it was just Dongmei and me; this year we've added Min Jie as our third PR employee, and have a team of three awesome interns, Lirong, Yutong, and Mingjun. The whole thing is much more under control, and it's possible to actually enjoy ourselves!

I'll post a few pictures below, but first a few memorable moments:

  1. Putting Alejandro Zambra, the Chilean cultural attaché, and the Chilean ambassador on a stage which, several weeks after we booked it, was turned into part of the children's book zone. The three of them discussed Chilean history and literature against a Finding Nemo backdrop, while the audience sat on colorful little squishy Tic-Tac stools. Zambra is a good sport.
  2. A cocktail party at the Beijing Bookworm. The Bookworm of course runs their international literary festival every March, a much larger and more long-running event than what we're doing here. But the two things are complimentary in spirit, and I'm really glad we were able to work together for the fun part of this week.
  3. Acting as impromptu bodyguard for Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich yesterday. Most audience members at the fairground were well-behaved, but a handful had obviously come because – hell or high water – they were going to get a Nobel laureate's signature, even if they had to tackle her. I wasn't expecting tussling to be a part of our literary festival, but hey, it was exciting.


Read Paper Republic: Season One, and Survey!

By Eric Abrahamsen, June 16, '16

So, it’s rather gone by in a whirlwind, but we’ve reached the end of our first year of Read Paper Republic. Starting June 18 of last year, we’ve published 53 short pieces online, one each Thursday (there’s 53 weeks in a year, right?), and today’s publication of Li Jingrui’s One Day, One of the Screws Will Come Loose marks the end of what we’ve come to think of as “Read Paper Republic, Season One”.

We’re taking a short break! Nicky Harman, Helen Wang and Dave Haysom have done a remarkable amount of work over the past year, and it's time for a breather while we think about where to go from here.

Apropos of that, we have a request to make of you! We’ve created a very short online survey that we very much hope you’ll take a moment to fill out. It’s only a page, and will be invaluable to us as we look back over the past year of publications, and think about the future. Please take five minutes and help us fill it out!

So what will be next? We’re not sure yet. Over the next six months, we’re likely to make some more additions to the RPR lineup, probably based around events and author visits in various parts of the world. “Season One” was done with no funding whatsoever (thanks to all our editors, translators and authors!), and we’re very aware that we could make a hypothetical “Season Two” a lot better with a bit of support.

Got any good ideas for doing that? Please let us know in the survey!


A Bad Year for China

By Eric Abrahamsen, May 27, '16

2016 is, everyone agrees, a bad year for China. Usually, what a bad year consists of is everyone telling each other “It’s a bad year here in China”. But there’s good evidence that this year is objectively worse than most. First, there’s Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade, which might be a righteous attempt to return the government to the strait and narrow, but also might be a thinly-disguised campaign to rid the official ranks of the less-than-loyal – and, sadly, is probably both. The past twelve months seem have been a record season for lawyer jailing which is always a really, really bad sign. The internet occasionally verges on unusable. Hong Kong booksellers are disappearing. For some reason, the fact that women’s-rights activist Xiao Meili was stopped by police outside the Beijing Bookworm and turned back from an event she was supposed to attend really drove it home for me.

Even in better times, China’s publishing industry generally leads the nation in gratuitous timidity. The echo-chamber effect is particularly strong here – whispered rumors, sidelong glances, knowing nods, and then the quiet consensus that “we’d better not risk it”. In a country where everyone is kept guessing by the capriciousness of those in power, publishers seem to have more sensitive antennae than pretty much anyone else out there. And apart from occasional meetings with SAPRFFT (where the government directives rarely amount to anything more specific than “be careful, this is a bad year for China”), publishers don’t have much more to go on than water-cooler gossip.

That, and the occasional castastrophic exercise of brute authority.


Interview with Helen Wang, Translator of Cao Wenxuan

By Eric Abrahamsen, April 13, '16

The big recent news in Chinese children's literature is Cao Wenxuan's winning of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, sometimes called the "Nobel Prize for Children's Literature". It's a big deal inside China, where the media closely watches the progress of the prize.

Like the Nobel, the prize is given to a writer for their entire oeuvre, not for any book in particular, but despite this everyone still points to works in particular. In this case, that's probably Bronze and Sunflower, translated by Helen Wang and published in the UK last year by Walker Books. In honor of the win, we conducted an email interview with Helen about her views on Cao's works (in case you didn't know, Helen is also one of the editors of Read Paper Republic, and is currently to be found representing PR at the London Book Fair). See below for the full interview.


Call for Summer Interns

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 30, '16

Paper Republic is looking for an intern in Beijing to work with us on literary and publishing events this year, from late spring to early fall. Think you might be interested? Drop us a line!

What’s going on this year

In addition to our usual activities, Paper Republic is running two larger events this year, and need more hands on deck. In late June we’re hosting a publishing fellowship, where publishers and editors will come from around the world to spend a week in Beijing, getting to know Chinese writers and publishers. Then in late August is the Beijing International Book Fair, when we’ll be conducting a small literary festival as part of the Fair.

Who we’re looking for

We need someone in Beijing with an interest (and preferably experience) in literature, publishing, and translation. We’re really hoping to find someone who is strong in both English and Chinese, but don’t mind what nationality you are. We need someone who’s organized, motivated and creative, and who thrives on the unexpected.

We need someone who can dedicate at least fifteen hours week to the job, preferably more, and who can join us at our office in Beijing at least two days a week.

What you’ll be doing

Helping us plan literary and publishing events, arranging itineraries and schedules, writing news copy, liaising with publishers and editors, and picking famous writers up from the airport.

What we can provide you

A fun working environment with entertaining co-workers, a chance to meet all manner of people, a small monthly stipend, letters of recommendation, good coffee, and some unique experiences.

What next?

If you think you fit the bill, and are available from around April to the end of August, get in touch with us at We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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The State of the Republic

By Eric Abrahamsen, February 6, '16

So, following custom in many places on the internet, we thought it would be nice to do an end-of-the-year what-we’ve-been-up-to retrospective, now that 2015 is nearly over and 2016 is right… What’s that? 2015 already over? Not in our neighborhood! As far as we’re concerned, these are the last days of Yi Wei (乙未), and come Monday we’ll be entering Bing Shen (丙申), the Year of the Fire Monkey (hence the excerpt from Journey to the West, aka “Monkey”, that we just published on Read Paper Republic). None of this newfangled Gregorian tomfoolery around here. We might consider the Julian calendar… but no.

What have we been up to over the past lunar year? Here’s a brief rundown:

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AALITRA Translation Prize Announcement

By Eric Abrahamsen, February 2, '16

Below is the announcement of the Australian Association for Literary Translation (AALITRA) translation prize for 2016, featuring prose and poetry selections from the Chinese. I'll be acting as judge of entries for the A Yi prose bit.

See below for details (keep in mind this is open to Australian citizens only…):

The Australian Association for Literary Translation (AALITRA) now invites entries for the AALITRA Translation Prize.

The AALITRA Translation Prize aims to acknowledge the wealth of literary translation skills present in the Australian community. Prizes are awarded for a translation of a selected prose text and for a translation of a selected poem, with the focus on a different language each time the prize is offered.

In 2016, the focus language is Chinese. The prose text for translation is by A Yi (阿乙). The poetry text is by Rong Rong (荣荣). Each text is available from our website.

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Alligator Pear

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 29, '16

I'd always assumed that one of the Chinese words for avocado – 鳄梨, or "alligator pear" – was something made up by Chinese wordsmiths who were coming into contact with the funny fruit for the first time. Now, after reading an article on the Washington Post about restaurant menus in the US from a hundred years ago, I learn that "alligator pear" was something made up by… US wordsmiths who were coming into contact with the funny fruit for the first time. Who knew!?

Now can someone tell me the origins of 牛油果?

Edit: And I spelled wrong...


Data Entry

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 23, '16

While the rest of us are sleeping, the Paper Republic Science Elves are hard at work updating our database of Chinese authors, books, translations, and publications. We've made a few bits of visible progress recently, to which the Science Elves would like to call to your attention.

The first change is that we've consolidated some of the database pages: it used to be that original Chinese works, their translations, and respective publications of the two, all had their own separate pages in the database. That led to a sort of round-and-round-the-mulberry-bush situation as you clicked from one page to another, and though this amused the Science Elves very much, it was largely unhelpful for the rest of us. This various information is now gathered into more comprehensive pages, where you can see more, while clicking less (for instance see Feng Tang's Beijing Beijing. We've tried to provide redirects for old URLs, so none of your links go broken.

The second change is the introduction of the publications search page, where you can search through publications listed in the database. You can reach this page from the link top and center. For the past few years, we've been compiling lists of "Chinese literature translated and published in 20XX", which has meant quite a bit of manual labor for the people involved. The whole point of having a database, of course, is that you can spit out information automatically, so why not let you do the searching yourself? You can now find publications by year, language, zone, format…

There will be more coming in the future – the database is already quite extensive, and we'll be adding more entry points and search features over the coming months. The Science Elves are dedicated to bringing us into the 1990s, at least, and the 2000s are within reach!

In the meantime, I'll see if I can rouse the Design Elves…

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Beijing International Book Fair: Literary Salons

By Eric Abrahamsen, August 20, '15

As Bruce has already noted, Paper Republic is helping the Beijing International Book Fair plan a series of literary events during the book fair in Beijing next week. It's a relatively small affair, but we've had fun with it, and I think have some very nice events on the way.

Do note: These events are aimed at a Chinese-speaking audience, and most will not cater to English-speakers!

You can see the full event schedule, plus our awesome posters (designed by Sun Xiaoxi, about whom more later), at this link.

Events we're particularly excited about include a few with Alan Lee, illustrator of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, a conversation between Enrique Vila-Matas and Ge Fei, a writing workshop with Simon Van Booy, and a discussion about the future of publishing in China with folks from Guoren and Douban. But there's a lot going on in there, check out the link!

Lastly, one event that didn't make it into the official schedule, but which I'm very enthusiastic about, is a talk with author and poet Wang Xiaoni and editor Li Jing, about Wang's short story collection 1966. That's happening Sunday, August 30th, at 3pm, at the One Way Street Aiqinhai location, and shouldn't be missed.

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