Nicky Harman

Literary translator.

London, UK


Nicky Harman lives in the UK. She taught on the MSc in Translation at Imperial College until 2011 and now translates full-time from Chinese. She focusses on fiction, literary non-fiction, and occasionally poetry, by authors such as Chen Xiwo, Han Dong, Hong Ying, Dorothy Tse, Xinran, Yan Geling and Zhang Ling. From June 2015-June 2016, she, along with Eric Abrahamsen, Dave Haysom and Helen Wang, is running the READ PAPER REPUBLIC project, posting and promoting a free-to-view short story every week for a year. She has contributed to the literary magazines Chutzpah, and Words Without Borders, and also organizes translation-focused events, mentors new translators and was one of the judges for the Harvill Secker Young Translators Prize 2012, and the Writing Chinese Translation competition, run by the White Rose East Centre, University of Leeds. Also occasionally reviews China books for the UK's Tribune magazine (eg review of Sheng Keyi's Death Fugue, Giramondo, 2014)

Winner of a Mao Tai Cup People's Literature Chinese-English translation prize 2015. Link here: in Chinese
Winner of first prize in the 2013 China International Translation Contest, Chinese-to-English section, with Jia Pingwa’s "Backflow River", 倒流河

Work in progress: Jia Pingwa, details to follow.

2016 publications:
Crystal Wedding, novel by Xu Xiaobin, Balestier Press, 2016 (awarded a PEN Translates grant)

2015 publications:

Paper Tiger, essays by Xu Zhiyuan, co-translated with Michelle Deeter, Head of Zeus, 2015 (awarded a PEN Translates grant).
Sissy Zhong by Yan Ge, published READ PAPER REPUBLIC.
January:Bridges, by Dorothy Tse, published READ PAPER REPUBLIC. The translation and editing of this story is discussed and illustrated here: Free Word Centre.

Also, 2015-2016, READ PAPER REPUBLIC short story series: launching, planning, translating, editing, promotion and publicity.

2014 publications:

The Book of Sins by Chen Xiwo published by FortySix, October 2014.

White Horse, novella by Yan Ge, Hope Road Publishing, October 2014.

A Tabby-cat's Tale by Han Dong, winter 2014.

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver by Chan Koon-chung, Doubleday, April 2014.

Snow and Shadow, short story collection by Dorothy Tse, East Slope Publishing, March 2014.

A New Development Model and China’s Future, by Deng Yingtao, Routledge, March, 2014.

The Stone Ox that Grazed, short story by Sun Yisheng in Asymptote, April 2014.

A Loud Noise, poems by Han Dong, March 2014.

Other Published Translations in date order:

Urban Control and the Modernist City - essay by Leung Man-Tao, in LA Review of Books, originally appeared in Paper Republic, August 2013.

Woman Fish, by Dorothy Tse, for the Guardian newspaper, March 2013

The Shades who Periscope through Flowers to the Sky, by Sun Yisheng, for Words Without Borders, December 2012, and Dad, Your Name is Bao Tian, by Sun Yisheng, for The World of Chinese, March 2013.

Old Man Xinjiang, by Xue Mo, in China Stories for the Guardian newspaper, April 2012.

The Man with the Knife by Chen Xiwo, for Words Without Borders, November 2012

'Goodbye to Anne', in the novella collection The Road of Others, by Anni Baobei, Makedo Publishing, 2012.

Throwing out the Baby, by Xu Zechen, in Words Without Border, April 2012.

Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China, Comma Press "Tales from Ten Cities" series, the two by Han Dong and Ding Liying, 2012

Flowers of Nanjing by Yan Geling, , published by Chatto and Windus, January 2012

A Phone Call from Dalian: Selected Poems by Han Dong, published by Zephyr Press, April 2012. Multiple reviews including World Literature Today and Peony Moon

The Eye of the Eagle, short story by Bai Hua, published by Hope Road Publishing

Prize-winning novel Gold Mountain Blues/Jin Shan by Zhang Ling, published by Penguin Canada

Short stories for Ou Ning's Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, 2009, and literary magazine Chutzpah, 2010 and 2011.

Message from Unknown Chinese Mothers (Author: Xinran), Chatto & Windus, 2010.

China Witness (author: Xinran), oral history Co-translator with Esther Tyldesley and Julia Lovell. Chatto & Windus , 2008.

Banished! (author: Han Dong) (《扎根》 韩东), novel. University of Hawai’i Press, 2009. Won a PEN Translation Fund Award (2006) for this work. Longlisted for Man Asian Literary Prize, 2008.

‘Long Corridor, Short Song’ (author: Zi Ren, in To Pierce the Material Screen: An Anthology of 20th Century HK Literature, to be pub. Renditions, Hong Kong 2008); (《长廊的短调》 梓人) short story.

China Along the Yellow River (author: Prof. Cao Jinqing, pub. Routledge Curzon, December 2004); (《黄河边的中国》 曹锦清) sociology of rural China.

K – The Art of Love (author: Hong Ying, pub. Marion Boyars, 2002); (K 虹影) novel.


Harvill Secker Young Translator Prize I was a judge for this prize for the year 2012, when the language was Chinese and the author whose work entrants translated was Han Dong.

Translator-in-Residence I was Translator-in-Residence at London’s Free Word Centre, in the autumn of 2011, organizing a programme of talks and workshops which focused on Chinese and on translation but were intended for a general (non-Chinese-speaking) audience. For example, Isabel Hilton spoke on ‘Translating the Environment’ and her website China Dialogue; Fuschia Dunlop talked about translating Chinese food and brought us samples to taste; Brian Holton ran a workshop on translating Chinese classical poetry; and, with Rosalind Harvey, I ran a Bookclub Fest (sort of ‘speed-dating’ for Bookclub enthusiasts: four translated short stories to discuss in two hours).

Working with young people I use a clip from the Chinese cartoon film, Monkey, to work with young people on translating and creative story-telling/writing. I tell them that by the end of the session (about an hour), they will be able to translate the dialogue. I then tell them that translators have to do a bit of inspired guessing too. As we watch the clip, I also get them to repeat a few of the more entertaining bits of the dialogue. I've done this at various venues, including Nottingham Night of Festivals 2012, the Islington Chinese Association 2012, (part of the Islington Word Festival,) and in secondary schools - in places where the students know some Chinese, and where they know none at all.

Podcasts I have collaborated with Steve Wasserman to provide podcasts for his Short Story Bookclub and Read Me Something You Love. He podcast a Han Dong short story, The Deer Park and I read some of Han Dong’s poems for Read Me Something You Love.

Guardian newspaper I co-edited a series of five short stories translated from Chinese for the Guardian Online book pages, and wrote an accompanying article, in the week leading up to the London Bookfair, April 2012.

Mentoring new translators I have mentored a new translator, Anna Holmwood for the first British Centre for Literary Translation mentorship scheme, 2010, and will continue to mentor translators under the same scheme in 2012.

China Inside Out day at English PEN, March 2012. I helped plan this event and was instrumental in bringing over from China writers, a translator and a director for a fascinating day-long programme of debates, readings, film screenings and music.

I also run the "China Fiction Bookclub", an informal group of Chinese speakers who meet every couple of months in London to discuss and practise translating a variety of short stories or novel excerpts. All welcome. Contact me for details. Also on Twitter: @cfbcuk


Research publications:

Li Hao: Translation of Contemporary Chinese Literature in the English-speaking World: An Interview with Nicky Harman, The AALITRA Review, No 4 (2012)

What's that got to do with anything? Coherence and the translation of relative clauses from Chinese. In Journal of Specialised Translation ( issue 13, January 2010

Foreign Culture, Foreign Style: a Translator’s View of Modern Chinese Fiction. In Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 14(1): 13-31. (2006).

Beyond Paper Dictionaries: Mining the Web for Technical Terminology in Chinese (available from, or on request from NH).

Visiting Fellow at the Research Centre for Translation at Chinese University Hong Kong, April 2006. Visiting Scholar, Fudan University and Beijing University, China, 2008.

Nicky Harman translated for READ PAPER REPUBLIC, week 3, 2 July 2015, and READ PAPER REPUBLIC, week 10, 20 August 2015.

Read Paper Republic

Original Works



Short stories






As Editor



Paper Republic collective and friends put together this list for

"Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. Yet the near-invisibility of Chinese women writers internationally is entirely undeserved. They flourish on the literary scene at home and have done so since the beginning of the New Culture Movement in the early twentieth century. We are quite proud that this list (drawn up by the collective and friends) ranges so widely. There’s something here for everyone, from travel literature to novels and short story collections, from fantasy and sci-fi to meditations on love and loneliness, with plenty of dark humor along the way. We have included works from all over the Chinese-writing world–mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (and one from USA too)."


By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 3:03p.m.



Terrific article by Helen Wang and Paul Crook:

"The British Museum collection of Mao badges currently stands at about 350 pieces. It’s part of the UK’s national collection of badges from all over the world. Since the catalogue of Mao badges was published, every so often I receive emails from people who have their own Mao badge collections, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands. One such person is Clint Twist, who, with only a little encouragement a couple of years ago, set up what is probably the first English language website devoted to Mao badges — and tweets a Mao badge almost every day @clinttwist.

More recently, I discovered that one of the British Museum volunteers, Paul Crook, had been a teenage Mao badge dealer in Beijing in the 1960s! Paul — who was recently interviewed by the BBC for a segment on posters from the Mao era — kindly agreed to talk about that time, vividly confirming Dikötter’s statement that “badges were the most hotly traded pieces of private property during the first years of the Cultural Revolution, open to every form of capitalist speculation.”


By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 2:59p.m.

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Jade laptops and a library of books...

Natascha Bruce talks about starting out as a Chinese-to-English translator: " actually never occurred to me to make the link between literature existing in translation, and there being real people out there creating those translations. I don’t know what I would have said I thought happened, if pushed? That once you have studied Chinese for one hundred years and can prove, for certain, that you know everything – will catch every single hidden reference to a Tang poem without missing a beat – there’s a special ceremony and you are given a laptop made of jade and a library of books, and told to go forth and be the person to make them accessible to the English-reading world, something mystical like that."


By Nicky Harman, April 21 '16, 4:11p.m.

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Frances Weightman, of Writing Chinese, Leeds University, UK, has sent this UPDATE: "Our 2nd Bai Meigui Chinese-English Translation Competition (run this year in collaboration with the ever so fabulous Read Paper Republic) is open for entries and we are delighted to announce that we once again can offer the winner a full bursary to this summer's Translate in the City literary translation workshop at City University, London. We are grateful to the White Rose East Asia Centre for their generosity in facilitating this. The winning entry will also be published (details to follow). The deadline for entries is Wednesday 9th March, so plenty of time if you've not yet started.

The text this time is a short piece of reportage by Li Jingrui with all sorts of interesting bits to challenge even seasoned translators! So – do take up the challenge and click this link for more details on the text and how to enter.

By Nicky Harman, February 14 '16, 1:50a.m.

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“That Damned Thing She Said”: four short stories from China to celebrate International Women's Day

“That Damned Thing She Said”: four short stories from China to celebrate International Women's Day, in the series "Wanderlust: Great Literature from Around the World".
Read Paper Republic are partnering with Free Word Centre, London, to run a speed-bookclubbing evening on Monday 14 March 2016, 6:45pm. The discussion groups will be led by Nicky Harman, Helen Wang, Emily Jones and Roddy Flagg. Further information and booking on the Free Word events page:

By Nicky Harman, January 24 '16, 3:31p.m.


For all you aspiring (or active) Chinese-to-English translators

FIRST: the translation summer school at City University London will run again this year and there will be a Chinese-to-English option: Translate in the City, Literary Translation in Practice, 11th - 15th July 2016. As the blurb says: "An immersion course in literary translation into English across genres, taught by leading literary translators and senior academics, with plenty of opportunities for networking with publishers, teachers and each other."
Save the date if you're interested. More details to follow.

SECOND: Don't forget the Leeds University Writing Chinese translation competition. The post with all the details follows this one.

By Nicky Harman, January 19 '16, 7:05a.m.

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Writing Chinese (Leeds University White Rose Centre) and READ PAPER REPUBLIC are jointly running the 2016 Bai Meigui Translation Competition. Launched on 7th November 2015, the competition free to enter, and is open to anyone, from any country, with an interest in Chinese-English translation. The winning translation will be published as one of the READ PAPER REPUBLIC short story series. Click here for further details, and here, for the text. The deadline is 29th February 2016 and the judges are Dave Haysom, Nicky Harman and Helen Wang.


By Nicky Harman, January 19 '16, 6:57a.m.

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READ PAPER REPUBLIC hooks up with two UK organisations

A key part of the READ PAPER REPUBLIC project, apart from publishing complete short stories every #TranslationThurs for a year, has been to make sure that people read them. So we linked up with two UK organisations with a special interest in literary translation a few weeks ......produced a video of a discussion between writer Dorothy Tse, Dave Haysom (Pathlight and R P R editor) and me.


By Nicky Harman, July 16 '15, 7:48a.m.

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What does it mean to be a Hongkonger in 2015? Views from the award-winning poet Jennifer Wong.

Francis Beechinor (from SOAS) has asked me to post this event for anyone in London next week: "Having lived in both Hong Kong and the UK, Jennifer Wong, the author of Goldfish and winner of the Hong Kong Young Artist Award, will share her insights on Hong Kong as both an inherently Chinese and international city. Through readings of some of her own poems about Hong Kong, she will share her views on the city's unique culture and identity. Come along to hear about the life of a poet and what it means to be a citizen of Hong Kong today. Feel free to join the Facebook event.

Venue: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Rm 116 Date/time: Tue 17 Feb 2015 - 18:30 - 20:00.

By Nicky Harman, February 9 '15, 6:43a.m.

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China Fiction Book Club hits two milestones

The new Social Media list on the right of the Paper Republic home page lists the China Fiction Book Club. For those of you who haven't come across it before, the CFBC started out as a London-based translation club, meeting every month to translate and discuss contemporary Chinese fiction. After a couple of (very lively and successful) years, work pressures got the better of most of us, and the CFBC went a bit quiet until the day, soon after, when it turned into a Twitter account, @cfbcuk. Amazingly, Helen Wang and I got together over a cup of coffee to set up the account on Twitter the very day that Mo Yan won that prize. Two and a bit years later, the @cfbcuk has hit two milestones: over 1,000 followers and very nearly 5,000 tweets. Follow it if you can!

By Nicky Harman, January 16 '15, 2:22p.m.

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London Book Fair's International Literary Translation Initiative Award 2015 - nominations wanted!

London Book Fair is offering an International Literary Translation Initiative Award. This is a new prize, set up last year, one of a dozen the LBF is awarding annually. It recognises the contribution of "organisations that have succeeded in raising the profile of literature in translation, promoting literary translators, and encouraging new translators and translated works." Qualified for nomination are: "Any company or organisation operating outside the UK, whose scope of achievement is outside the UK." Last year, the Best Translated Book Award (USA) won it.

So: a prize, a literary magazine, a summer school, a website...all would qualify, and anyone can nominate their favourite "initiative".

The deadline for nominations is 16 January 2015 (webpage currently says 9th, but this will be altered), and all the nominators have to do is fill in a fairly simple form, stating in 300 words why the organisation they're nominating deserves to win. Here's the link to the info and to the nomination form

By Nicky Harman, December 14 '14, 12:47a.m.

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