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.

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


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Novels (2)

Essays (2)

Short stories (17)

As Editor


Indie vs Hip

By Eric Abrahamsen, September 20, '12

A few weeks ago we had a lively argument/discussion on a mailing list about the proper translation of the term 文艺青年 (wényì qīngnián, literally "arts and culture youth", or "arts and letters youth") – a common term for a certain cohort of under-30 Chinese identifiable by their ability to recite Haizi poetry from memory, their starry-eyed idealism, and their ownership of a digital SLR. They've now sort of become the cultural and lexicological heirs of the "educated youth" (知情) of yore.

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Man Asian Literary Prize: Now Accepting Submissions

By Eric Abrahamsen, August 13, '12

The Man Asian Literary Prize, is now accepting submissions for its 2012 prize round, deadline August 31, 2012. the MALP is awarded to a novel by an Asian writer, either written in English or translated into English, and already published: submission should be done by the publisher, up to three titles per imprint. The author of the winning novel receives a prize of 30,000 USD and the translator, if any, gets 5,000 USD.

The longlist will be announced December 4th, the shortlist January 9th, and the winner March 14th, 2013. See the MALP press release for more information.

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Submit to Litro!

By Eric Abrahamsen, August 10, '12

Litro magazine, a UK-based monthly "pocket" literary magazine, is preparing a China-focussed issue, and wants your translated short stories! See their home page via the link above for submission guidelines.

Edit: The deadline, I'm told, has been extended somewhat, so be swift!


Italian Sweep

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 29, '12

A bit of good publishing news: the Italian publishing house Sellerio recently announced the purchase of three excellent Chinese novels to publish in Italy:

  • Concession (租界) by Xiao Bai (小白)
  • Tui Na (推拿) by Bi Feiyu (毕飞宇)
  • Running Through Zhongguancun (跑步穿过中关村) by Xu Zechen (徐则臣)

Excellent choices, and Paper Republic is pleased to have played a role, in a sort of back-room, smoke-wreathed, under-the-table kind of way.

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Freedom, with bits missing

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 19, '12

How to feel like a complete noob at the Chinese internet:

Step One: Browse weibo. Notice heated discussions about something called 目田, which apparently means "eye field". Have the vague feeling that you're not getting the joke.

Step Two: Finally catch on that 目田 (eye field) is just 自由 (freedom), with bits missing.

If only the internet censors were this slow…


Yan Lianke/Cindy Carter make the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize Shortlist

By Eric Abrahamsen, January 11, '12

The 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize shortlist was announced yesterday, and we were thrilled to see Cindy Carter's translation of Yan Lianke's novel Dream of Ding Village appear as the only Chinese novel. This year's shortlist is long: an unprecedented seven books. Conventional wisdom might indicate that, since three of the past four prize-winners have been Chinese, Yan Lianke has something of an institutional handicap. Let's hope that's not the case—this is a very worthy book.


Sign up for Pathlight notifications

By Eric Abrahamsen, December 6, '11

We've had a pleasantly large (read: slightly overwhelming) number of requests for information about Pathlight magazine, and in the interest of keeping things manageable, have created a new page dedicated to Pathlight magazine here on the site:

The main thing you'll want to do there is sign up for notifications about future issues. That will be an extremely low-volume mailing list, no danger that we'll be filling up your email inbox. The other thing you can do there is gawk at the cover and table of contents. Enjoy!

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New Sales at Peony Literary Agency

By Eric Abrahamsen, November 25, '11

Busy days for the Peony Literary Agency, who recently announced the sales of three books from two of their authors: Han Han's Youth and 1988: I Want to Talk to This World have both been bought by Simon & Schuster US, to be translated by Allan Barr and published in the second half of 2012; and Yan Geling's The Flowers of War (金陵十三钗), to Other Press, translated by Nicky Harman, to be published next January.


For further information please contact Marysia Juszczakiewicz in Hong Kong at, or Tina Chou in Shanghai at Full press releases below:


Chinese Literature Week, part the second

By Eric Abrahamsen, November 20, '11

So that this shouldn't become a wall of rambling text, I'm going to arrange the rest of my observations and recollections from the Chinese Literature Week in Oslo into easily-digestible bullet points. No actual logical structure or cohesion is implied!

  • Turnout was amazing—around 4,000 attendees at 30-some events. Not bad for a group of writers few of whom are translated into Norwegian.

  • A total of seven Chinese authors are available in Norwegian translation, two of whom write in English (Li Yiyun and Guo Xiaolu) and three of whom live outside China (add Ma Jian to the above). The Norwegian publishers I met, to their credit, seem fairly intent on changing this situation. Yu Hua's Brothers is in the works, as is Ai Mi's Under the Hawthorn Tree. Xu Zechen was eyed appraisingly.

  • The Norwegians are quite generous. Never have I purchased meals with a square of plastic that didn't have to be run through a machine: you gestured with it at the waiters, and they smiled and brought you free food.


Chinese Literature Week in Norway

By Eric Abrahamsen, November 16, '11

I'm in Norway for the House of Literature's Chinese Literature Week (see the link for full schedule). Participants include Xi Chuan 西川, Wang Hui 汪晖, Murong Xuecun 慕容雪村, Ma Jian 马建, Leslie T. Chang, Rebecca Karl, Michael Dutton, Li Yiyun 李翊雲, Hong Ying 虹影, Mian Mian 棉棉, Xu Zechen 徐则臣, Han Song 韩松, Lan Lan 蓝蓝, Cheng Yong Xin 程永新, Zou Zou 走走 and me (thank you Lucas for typing all that up). Annie Baby was supposed to come, but she recently received word that her magazine, Open, was going to be shut, and stayed home instead. The spirit hovering over all this is Halvor Elfring who, besides having a pretty decent name, is Norway's principle sinologist and gracious dinner host of sundry China-related vagabonds [edit: I got Halvor Elfring confused with Harald Bøckman, who has a less exciting name but makes up for it with a great beard].

I'm pleased to be here: we put a fair amount of work into the planning stage of this event ("we" here means Canaan), and it's nice that we can also be present for its execution ("we" here means me). Houses of Literature around the globe, take note!

This is day three of events, but I only arrived last night, so more reports to follow. So far, the House of Literature seems lovely: a large, well-run place offering regular readings and author talks, with a writing center, writer-in-residence quarters, children's literature center, and bookshop. The bookshop had a nice selection of Chinese literature in English and Norwegian translation: Lenin's Kyss by Yan Lianke can only be 受活 (Shouhuo), currently being translated into English by Carlos Rojas. I was also foolishly amused to read of Mo Yan's association with the "Lu Xun-prisen" and the "Mao Dun-prisen". I guess a translator shouldn't laugh at these false cognates—the problem is in your head, after all, not the language—but one permits oneself a little snarkle.

Events have so far been packed: 500+ for writers with no Norwegian translations.


This month's newsletter: Ge Fei gets off his butt

By Eric Abrahamsen, October 3, '11

This month's newsletter is going out now… Actually that would be September's newsletter, but hell, everyone's on vacation. Things I like in this issue: Ge Fei finally published the final volume in his "Utopia" series, titled Southern Spring (春尽江南), and Lawrence Li of Tangcha (唐茶) is producing really beautiful Chinese-language e-Books, selling them via iOS, and… people are buying them. Sign up here!

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