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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
If you think you fit the bill, and are available from around April to
the end of August, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
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
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
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!?
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…