Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

Nicky Harman

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Nicky Harman lives in the UK. She is co-Chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors). 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. When not translating, she spends time promoting contemporary Chinese fiction to the general English-language reader. From June 2015-June 2016, she, along with Eric Abrahamsen, Dave Haysom and Helen Wang, ran READ PAPER REPUBLIC, posting and promoting a free-to-view short story every week for a year, a project which continues to develop.

She writes blogs, give talks and lectures, and runs literary events especially with the London Free Word Centre, Southbank Centre and the Writing Chinese project (Leeds University). She also mentors new translators, teaches summer schools, and judges translation competitions: 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) . She tweets, with Helen Wang, as the China Fiction Bookclub @cfbcuk.

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

2019 publications:

Broken Wings, By Jia Pingwa, ACA Publishing

2018 publications:

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan, by Yan Ge, Balestier Press (awarded a PEN Translates grant)

Our Story: A Memoir of Love and Life in China, by Rao Pingru, Knopf Doubleday (awarded a PEN Translates grant)

2017 publications:

Jia Pingwa, Happy Dreams, Amazon Crossing, 2017.

Fish Tank Creatures, by Dorothy Tse, short story, translated with Natascha Bruce

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.

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

Non-fiction (1)


Novellas (1)

Essays (1)

Non-fiction (1)

Graphic novels (1)

Excerpts (1)

Collections (2)

Novels (11)

Poems (27)

Short stories (40)

As Editor


Translation thrives on Twitter

By Nicky Harman, March 22, '13

Some of you will have noticed that the London–based China Fiction Book Club, has a thriving twitter account, @cfbcuk. Launched, serendipitously, the day of the announcement that Mo Yan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it's going strong and has nearly 200 followers…(198 today and counting. Several new followers arrived between yesterday and today as a result of the Dorothy Tse story which appeared in the Guardian). PLUS Helen Wang has launched 3 more Twitter accounts, all worth browsing: Story of the Stone @caoxueqin1760; Lin Yutang @lytwords; and – together with the Emerging Translators Network - Translated World, @translatedworld. These have daily posts - have a look. If you don't yet have a Twitter account, then google the @names and you can reads the tweets...

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Chinese writer features in new Guardian newspaper series of water-themed stories

By Nicky Harman, March 15, '13

"Writers have long been fascinated by the wet stuff, and now we're opening the floodgates on a series of aquatic-themed short stories" says Richard Lea in the Guardian today. The Guardian has featured Chinese fiction before - five short stories translated from Chinese marked last year's London Book Fair. The current collection of "water" stories are from all around the world, some written in English, others translated. Dorothy Tse (谢晓红)wrote one in Chinese especially for this series, and it's translated by me.

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2012 translations from Chinese - the final list!

By Nicky Harman, December 31, '12

Thanks, everyone, for your additions and corrections. Here's what we've got now:


An Unusual Princess, by Wu Meizhen, tr. Petula Parris-Huang (Egmont UK)
Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City, by Dung Kai-cheung, tr. Dung Kai-cheung, Bonnie McDougall and Anders Hansson, Columbia University Press
Dream of Ding Village, Yan Lianke, tr. Cindy Carter (Constable)
Flowers of War, by Geling Yan, tr. Nicky Harman (Chatto & Windus)
Hanging Devils, by He Jiahong, tr. Duncan Hewitt (Penguin China/Australia)
Jackal and Wolf, by Shen Shixi, tr. Helen Wang (Egmont UK)
Lenin's Kisses by Yan Lianke tr. Carlos Rojas (Chatto & Windus)
Northern Girls, by Sheng Keyi, tr. Shelley Bryant (Penguin China/Australia)
Pai Hua Zi and the Clever Girl, by Zhang Xinxin, tr. Helen Wang (
Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China, various authors and translators (Comma Press)
The Civil Servant’s Notebook, by Wang Xiaofang, tr. Eric Abrahamsen (Penguin China/Australia)
The Road of Others, by Anni Baobei, tr. Nicky Harman (Make Do Publishing)
This Generation: Dispatches from China's Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver) Han Han tr. Allan Barr (Simon & Schuster)
Trees Without Wind: A Novel, Li Rui, tr. John Balcom, Columbia University Press
Under the Hawthorn Tree, by Ai Mi, tr. Anna Holmwood (Virago Press)


A Phone Call From Dalian, Han Dong, tr. Nicky Harman and others, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
Doubled Shadows, Ouyang Jianghe, tr. Austin Woerner, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, tr. W.N. Herbert, Yang Lian, Brian Holton and Qin Xiaoyu (Bloodaxe Books)
June 4th Elegies, Liu Xiaobo, tr. Jeffrey Yang, (Graywolf Press)
Notes on the Mosquito, Poems of Xi Chuan, tr. Lucas Klein (New Directions Publishing)
Stone Cell, Lo Fu, tr. John Balcom, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
The Changing Room, Zhai Yongming, tr. Andrea Lingenfelter, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
Wind Says, Bai Hua, tr. Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)

2013 January, fiction

Last quarter of the Moon, Chi Zijian tr. Bruce Humes, Jan 2013 (Harvill Secker)
Sandalwood Death, Mo Yan, tr. Howard Goldblatt, Jan 2013 ( University of Oklahoma Press)

And a Happy New Year to all!


It’s been a good year for Chinese fiction in English.

By Nicky Harman, December 20, '12

I make it a total of nineteen books. OK, I’ve cheated a bit – three of the publications below are poetry, and two others come out in January 2013. Still, it’s a good haul and many times better than the annual total, say, ten years ago. (Please post a comment if I’ve missed anyone out.) I couldn’t begin to add up just how many hours of translation the whole list represents, and that’s without the extra work translators have put in, on some of these books, to get them off the ground. So, lets raise a glass to translation and all pat ourselves on the back!

In alphabetical order, this year’s publications from Chinese are:


Monocle24 interviews Danny Hahn and Nicky Harman

By Nicky Harman, October 6, '12

Danny Hahn and I did a radio interview about the state of the art of translation for Monocle24 Globalist programme on Thursday 4th October. A bit nerve-wracking (for me), but they were lovely people and they gave us a decent amount of time to say what we wanted to say. You can listen here: It's a nearly 2-hour programme, and we come at 1:29 ie practically the end, but you can download and scoot that progress bar along to the point where they start with a phone interview with David Bellos (Is that a fish in your ear). Should you be so inclined.

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Translators and readers crowd around the table to talk Chinese fiction

By Nicky Harman, May 25, '12

Michael Rank asked me to post this piece about a get-together held in London last week. He writes: Translated fiction is notoriously hard to sell in the English-speaking world, but Chinese fiction seems to be a bit of an exception just at the moment. That was the message from a meeting of about 20 translators and readers arranged by Chinese-English translator, Nicky Harman, and Michael Sheringham of Arthur Probsthain, the venerable oriental bookshop on Great Russell Street near the British Museum.

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