Eric Abrahamsen (1978 – )

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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.

Eric also runs a US-based company called Coal Hill Books which provides rights agency and publishing consulting for Chinese and international publishers seeking to do business with each other. You can reach him there at eric@coalhillbooks.com.

 

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Translations

Novels (2)

Essays (2)

Short stories (17)

As Editor

Posts

Interview with Julia Lovell on her new translation of Journey to the West

By Eric Abrahamsen, February 16, '21

Not content with the complete works of Lu Xun, Julia Lovell has taken on another momentous project in a new translation of Journey to the West, aka Monkey King. Watch as she joins Emily Jones and Dylan King in conversation about the translation process, and the story's place in Chinese and world culture.

Bonus feature: read Nicky Harman's review of the translation on the Asian Books Blog

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Notes on Paper Republic and the Translation Community, Part 2

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 21, '21

A few days ago we published a statement on the site regarding Paper Republic's stance on racism, and support for BIPOC translators. After more discussion with the community, we posted a further statement on Twitter, which we're reposting here:

Paper Republic condemns the racism that has played, and continues to play, a fundamental role in shaping the fields of translation and publishing, and in preventing the voices of BIPOC translators from being heard.

We condemn racist translation practices both overt and covert, including bridge translation, and any other practice which devalues or discounts the work of BIPOC translators.

We apologize to Yilin Wang for the personal racist attacks she's had to endure during the course of this exchange, and we apologize to everyone watching for how long it's taken us to respond appropriately to the situation.

Our immediate course of action will be to take responsibility for community postings on Paper Republic: we will no longer permit unmoderated posts.

For the longer term, we are starting conversations with people in the community, and are considering what active programming we can put in place to support BIPOC translators and writers.

This initiative will require more research; we're likely to take Yilin's suggestion of either a community survey, or a "town hall" type event.

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Notes on Paper Republic and the Translation Community

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 12, '21

Some recent discussion about bridge translations – starting with this Asymptote article, and Charles Laughlin’s response to it here on Paper Republic – have led to some discussion on Twitter. As part of that, Yilin Wang has publicly asked Paper Republic for a statement on our position regarding BIPOC translators, and acknowledging white translators’ systemic privilege in the field.

We are absolutely in support of BIPOC translators and their growing prominence as translators of Chinese literature. The translation and publishing industries have been tainted by exoticism and orientalism, as a result of being dominated by white voices. We believe that the single most positive trend in the translation of Chinese literature over the past few decades has been the gradually-growing inclusion of translators with personal roots in the language and culture. From the dominance of academics (primarily white academics), to the rise of (still mostly white) “professional translators”, the past few years have seen a new wave of translators and writers who are either heritage speakers of the language, or are native Chinese speakers who are making their voices heard within English-speaking countries. We look forward to more such translators appearing on the stage.

This process has also helped us realize that Paper Republic’s editorial policy is anything but clear. Our platform allows anyone working in Chinese literature and translation can post about themselves, their projects, and their points of view on related issues. We do not solicit postings, nor do we vet them in advance. The current management team is mostly focused on projects related to education and short translations; the “blog-like” part of the site is open to anyone with an account on the site.

Currently 78 people have accounts on Paper Republic, the vast majority of them translators, and anyone with an account can post. We (the management team) encourage any and all translators to ask for Paper Republic accounts, and to use the site to amplify their voices however they like.

We’re realizing that none of the above is obvious, at all. We’re working on a new version of the site that should make this clearer. In the meantime, we restate our support for all translators, particularly the BIPOC translators we believe are the future, and we hope that Paper Republic can continue to serve as an open forum for all.

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Paper Republic's First Annual Year in Review

By Eric Abrahamsen, December 17, '20

Paper Republic became a Charitable Incorporated Organization in the UK in February of 2019, and our first annual report is now due. We got sort of excited, and made a nice-looking report detailing all the fun we've had in the past year, and some of the fun we've got planned for the next year.

It seemed like a nice idea to post this at the same time as our traditional annual roll call of new translation publications, so here you are! Our annual report is here, and the 2020 roll call is here. Enjoy!

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Yan Lianke wins the 2021 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

By Eric Abrahamsen, October 30, '20

From the press release:

The Newman Prize honors Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose generous endowment of a chair at the University of Oklahoma enabled the creation of the OU Institute for US-China Issues in 2006. OU is also home to the Chinese Literature Translation Archive, Chinese Literature Today, World Literature Today and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Juror Eric Abrahamsen said of the winner, “Yan’s writing does for the Chinese heartland what John Steinbeck did for the American West, or Thomas Hardy for Southwest England…he remains vitally invested in the ethical responsibility of the author. Though it has been demonstrated to him again and again that his explorations of China’s historical trauma are not welcome, he seems not to take the hint, and persists in laying bare what he sees as the original sins of modern Chinese society…His stubbornness, and the perpetual freshness of his sorrow over historical tragedy, are worthy of respect.”

See below for the full text of the press release.

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Give-it-a-go Update

By Eric Abrahamsen, May 14, '20

So if you'll recall, Paper Republic partnered up with Leeds University to do a mass co-translation plus online workshop to add a little spice to our current Read Paper Republic series (called "Epidemic").

To everyone's surprise and delight, we got a total of 124 participants from around the world, each giving us their rendering of an essay by Deng Anqing.

We scrambled into technical competence, setting up four Zoom meetings in three different time zones, and leading translation workshops with the goal of producing a readable consensus text. We're still in the process of editing that particular Frankenstein – look for it to be published next Thursday, May 21st – but in the meantime we made a (very) short video about the process, also on Zoom, natch. Enjoy!

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In Search of New Team Members: A Call to Arms

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 4, '20

Paper Republic has moved into a new era. Our mission is to promote Chinese literature in English translation, focussing on new writing from contemporary Chinese writers, and we recently registered as a charity in the UK, registration number 1182259. New era, new ambitions. We're growing, and we need new people to join our non-profit management team.

In particular, the wonderful Dave Haysom, who helped us develop the Paper Republic platform, is having to step back to focus on his job. Right now, we need someone with an interest in the social media side of things, and someone with an interest in running projects.

  • Are you interested in Chinese literature in translation? You don't have to be a translator, though it will help if you've done a bit.
  • Do you know about (or are you willing to learn about) creating posts or Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and our website? And can you come up with new ideas? Our marketing and social media profile is key to getting more people reading more Chinese literature in translation.
  • Are you interested in managing a project? Apart from maintenance of the website, Paper Republic is a project-based organization. Everyone on the management team is responsible for taking the lead on a project at some point.
  • Are you comfortable with technology? We exist mostly online, and are located around the world. That means that most of what we do is done through internet communications. Everyone does a bit of website data entry, as well!
  • Are you willing to join management meetings via Slack. These can be at ungodly hours (our other team members are scattered in China, the west coast of America and the UK). Meetings are every two to three weeks for about an hour. Other business gets discussed by email.
  • Are you willing to volunteer your services? Our management team consists of five volunteers. You would be the sixth or seventh member of our team. The management work is unpaid, although we always aim to pay translators and editors. It doesn’t matter where you live, so long as your time zone means you can join our Slack meetings.

What will you get out of it?

  • You’ll be giving something back, to Chinese literature and the wider Chinese translation community
  • You’ll be working on a website that has an international reputation (the London Book Fair judges in 2016 called us the go-to place for Chinese translations and translators)
  • For more than ten years, Paper Republic has shaped people’s views of Chinese literature in translation all over the word.
  • You’ll be joining a community of translators, and you’ll learn professional skills (and we hope we’ll learn from you).

If you're interested, please drop us a note (and a CV) via email: info@paper-republic.org

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We're a Charity!

By Eric Abrahamsen, October 3, '19

Paper Republic has been through several incarnations during our twelve years of operation – from the early days of translators drinking cheap beer in Beijing, to the brainstorming session in the back room of the Beijing Bookworm where we came up with the name “Paper Republic”, to the first dog-slow Wordpress site. We started off as a place for translators to talk to each other, and soon transitioned into a platform for helping people learn about Chinese literature.

Over those twelve years we’ve done a whole lot of different stuff, almost all on a volunteer basis. Literature database; translation services; thought-provoking blog posts; online reading; magazine production; literary agency; publishing consulting; publishing fellowship; literary festivals. At some point we started feeling a little dizzy, and it seemed increasingly important to regroup a bit according to our original goals: to bring the best works of Chinese literature into English; to support emerging translators; and to maintain the internet’s best resource for Chinese literature.

We realized that these goals are essentially non-profit in nature, and that it didn't make much sense to try to run Paper Republic as a regular company. The solution: to register as a non-profit! More specifically, as a Charitable Incorporated Organization, based in the UK.

We set up the charity this year. We have a great group of trustees who oversee what we do and bring us the benefit of their experience, and our management team continues to work on projects, mostly as volunteers. You can see a little more background at our about page, and meet the gang here. If you’d like to support us via Paypal, we’d be thrilled.

Meanwhile, a few of our more commercially-oriented projects – Pathlight magazine, publishing consulting, and literary agency – will go to a US company we’re calling Coal Hill Books. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Lastly, if you’re in London, watch this space for an announcement of a launch party, with wine and books and balloons and all other things necessary for a literary get-together. We hope you’ll join us and celebrate!

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Job Posting: Pathlight Managing Editor

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 24, '18

Pathlight Magazine, a Paper Republic publication, is looking for a new Managing Editor!

The position is about half time (though sometimes busier than others), and based in Beijing. You will be working together (mostly remotely) with Paper Republic editors, and with People’s Literature Magazine, our Chinese partners. Responsibilities include:

  1. Keeping the magazine to a quarterly publication schedule.
  2. Working with Paper Republic and People’s Literature to collectively choose a theme and a table of contents for each issue.
  3. Assigning and collecting translations.
  4. Editing translations, or assigning editing work to other editors.
  5. Doing social media promotion.

We’ll provide translator and editor resources, and help connect you with everyone you need to talk to.

Salary is paid per issue, and is competitive.

Our ideal candidate:

  1. Is in Beijing.
  2. Is a Chinese => English translator. One of the strengths of Pathlight is that our translations are edited by translators.
  3. Is organized, and not afraid to crack the whip.
  4. Is conversant with contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry.
  5. Has some familiarity with digital publishing, including using InDesign and manipulating epub files.
  6. Has a bit of experience dealing with Chinese government-owned institutions.
  7. Would be available to start in the next couple months.

Interested parties please email info@paper-republic.org.

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Suggestions for Our Database

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 16, '18

Spurred by Three Percent's new searchable database of translations, in particular the ability to add new or missing titles, I've finally gotten around to finishing the first version of a similar "suggestions" function for the Paper Republic database of translated Chinese literature.

You can find the "Suggest an addition" link on the left-hand side of the PR pages, or follow this link directly. Right now it's limited to suggesting works of literature (though there's a write-in field for authors who aren't in the database), but I hope to eventually expand the options. If you're adding new works of literature to the database, please remember that Chinese originals and English translations have equal standing, so make two suggestions.

And thanks! If you have any suggestions about the suggestion (meta-suggestions!), please leave them in comments on this post.

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GLLI (18) - Chinese Literature Prizes - by Chen Dongmei

By Eric Abrahamsen, February 18, '17

China's domestic literary prizes are often viewed with uncertainty from abroad: Who runs them? Are they trustworthy? How are the different prizes specialized? Which should we be paying attention to? We've asked Chen Dongmei, who usually exerts her influence behind the scenes, to step forward and give us a rundown of prizes for adult and children's literature, to try to shed some light on these questions.

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GLLI (11) - Ken Liu on Chinese Science Fiction

By Eric Abrahamsen, February 11, '17

The following post, part of our Global Literature in Libraries Initiative series, is an email interview with Ken Liu, author and translator of science fiction. Apart from his own fiction Ken is best known around here as the translator of volumes I and III of the Three Body Problem, together with Joel Martinsen, and Clarkesworld magazine's in-depth interest in Chinese science fiction. We talked to him about what Chinese sci-fi has to offer -- take a look!**

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