Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

The State of the Republic

By Eric Abrahamsen, published

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:

  • Feb: Not much.

  • Mar: Under the aegis of Pathlight Magazine, we put together an event as part of the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival featuring Sun Yisheng, Nicky Harman, Dave Haysom and myself.

  • Apr: Paper Republic was runner-up for the 2015 London Book Fair Best Literary Translation Initiative Award.

  • May: Paper Republic traveled to New York for Book Expo America, where China was the Guest of Honor/Market Focus. We worked with the Guest of Honor organizers, plus local partner 20 Square Feet, to organize a series of public events for the dozen or so Chinese writers attending the Expo in New York. This month also saw the publication of Mo Yan’s novella Radish, translated by Howard Goldblatt. This was the first in a series of novella translations that Paper Republic is doing in conjunction with Penguin China, a series it occurs to me I haven’t mentioned before.

  • Jun: The Read Paper Republic short story series launched, under the stewardship of Nicky Harman, Helen Wang, Dave Haysom and myself. Year one of the project is still going strong, publishing one free-to-read complete piece on the web each Thursday.

  • Jul: Dave Haysom traveled to Leeds University for the Writing Chinese symposium, where he, Nicky Harman, and Dorothy Tse discussed The Story of a Story, the story in question being Dorothy's January: Bridges, at a Leeds public event, which was video'd and can be viewed online.

  • Aug: PR was the main organizing body for a series of Literary Salons (essentially a mini-literary festival) around the Beijing International Book Fair in August. We particularly enjoyed events with Enrique Vila-Matas and Lord of the Rings illustrator Alan Lee.

  • Sep: Paper Republic formally became a translation agency, focusing on cultural texts and film script/subtitle translation. Yan Lianke’s Marrow, the second in the aforementioned series of novella translations, was published by Penguin, in translation by Carlos Rojas.

  • Oct: The Chinese editorial board of Pathlight magazine – meaning editors from People's Literature magazine – visited the US and Canada to give talks at universities on the East Coast. I tagged along, mostly for the chance to meet David Der-Wei Wang and Ha Jin.

  • Nov: I was thrilled to travel both to the UK and Taiwan on behalf of Paper Republic. The first trip was to the University of Leeds as part of their Writing Chinese program. The second was at the invitation of the Grayhawk Agency, to the Taipei Rights Workshop, a publishing fellowship that I found both entertaining and highly educational. This was a good month.

  • Dec: We celebrated the six-month mark for Read Paper Republic. Read Paper Republic featured in the LA Review of Books, the Asian Books Review, the Anthill, China Dialogue, Asymptote, and Asian Cha. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Colm Toibin again as he visited Beijing, and translating a conversation between him and Yan Lianke as they discussed, among other things, Yan Lianke’s Marrow.

  • Jan: Without giving away too much, Paper Republic took the first steps towards becoming a publisher. It’s very much early days, but we look forward to more specific announcements in the months to come!

  • Feb: In honor of the Chinese New Year, we collaborated with the LA Review of Books: Read Paper Republic posted an excerpt from WJF Jenner's translation of Journey to the West, (excerpt available on our site here), and Professor Jenner wrote an essay about its translation, “Journeys to the East, Journey to the West,” available at LARB.

  • Next Up: Paper Republic is collaborating with Writing Chinese on the 2nd Bai Mei Gui Translation Competition. There's still time to enter (deadline 29 Feb, open to all). READ PAPER REPUBLIC are partnering with Free Word Centre, London, to run a speed-bookclubbing evening "That Damned Thing She Said" on Monday 14 March 2016, with a sister event in Beijing as part of the Bookworm Literary Festival.

And, as always, we continue work on the database.

Happy Year of the Monkey!


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