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

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

Eric Abrahamsen (1978 – )

worldcat / academia

Eric lived in Beijing from late 2001, when he studied Chinese at the Central University for Nationalities, until the end of 2016. 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, which was shortlisted for the National Translation Award.

His short-story translations have appeared in magazines including The New Yorker, Granta, and n+1. He also writes occasional cultural criticism, which has appeared in the New York Times and Foreign Policy, among other venues.


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Novels (2)

Essays (2)

Short stories (17)

As Editor


Yan Lianke in the Washington Post

By Eric Abrahamsen, July 10, '07

A very interesting article in the Washington Post today brings up the damage censorship does to Chinese art, mostly via the example of Yan Lianke and his novels. The bulk of the article is given over to the mechanisms of censorship, and how Yan waters down his work to make it publishable, though I was excited to read this paragraph:

Yan's little compromise illustrates one of the most tragic aspects of the Communist Party censorship that is imposed on journalism and art in China. In many ways, the country's 1.3 billion people are being deprived of the full bloom of their culture, with thousands of artists like Yan forced to calculate how much they can get away with rather than cutting loose with their talent unfettered.

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Dinner at Feng Tang's

By Eric Abrahamsen, July 3, '07

From left to right: our gracious host, Feng Tang, Lao Xiao of CCTV, and Lao Luo, once a famous English teacher, not sure what he does these days.

And here is Wang Xiaoshan – blogger, long-suffering journalist, and good man in disguise – author Xu Xing, and Ai Dan (?), who everyone assumed I had heard of, though I hadn't.

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The Bane of Our Existence

By Eric Abrahamsen, June 24, '07

Words Without Borders has a new Chinese short story, The Bane of My Existence by Can Xue, translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping. It's good to see more Chinese material coming out, but I can't say it deserves the effusive praise that accompanies it. The "hell cat tortures owner" plot feels like a whopping three parts symbolism to one part story, while the piece ends like this, with a sentence made of pure plywood: "All I knew was that I couldn’t bear to even imagine everything the future would bring." Arggh!

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Editors: what are they good for?

By Eric Abrahamsen, June 2, '07

During a long dinner with Lu Li and her husband a few weeks ago, she further confirmed something that I've suspected for a while: editors at Chinese publishing houses generally don't edit. Proofread – yes; censor – most definitely. But as for actual editing… She said the best she got was typically along the lines of "we like this story", or "this one's boring in the middle". There may be publishers out there who take the time to understand a writer's work, and help bring it closer to its ideal state, but they appear to be in the minority.

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Welcome, and pardon the mess

By Eric Abrahamsen, June 1, '07

Many thanks to Jenny Niven and Time Out Beijing for the article – as you can see we’re still in the process of setting up shop. Things are a little thin at the moment, but please stop by over the next week as we get underway, or better yet subscribe to the RSS feed on the right. Thanks for visiting!

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