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


Read Now: On Paper Republic

Mister Lover by Wang Xiaobo July 16, 2015

Read Now: Around the Web

Silver Tiger by Lu Yang The New Yorker
The Real Censors of China The New York Times
A Brief History of Time by Xu Zechen N+1
Irony is Good! Foreign Policy Magazine
Broken Words Without Borders

Book Publications

Running Through Beijing cover

Running Through Beijing

Xu Zechen

February 10, 2014

The Civil Servant's Notebook cover

The Civil Servant's Notebook

Wang Xiaofang

June 01, 2012

Original Works

Article (3)

All Translations

Short story (17)

Novel (2)

Essay (2)

The Paper Republic database exists for reference purposes only. We are not the publisher of these works, are not responsible for their contents, and cannot provide digital or paper copies.


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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The Royal We

By Eric Abrahamsen, September 20, '11

Seems like all the literary events I've been to recently have been about A Yi's new book, Guaren ( , literally "the lonely one", a term the Emperor used to refer to himself). The book is hard to categorize: taken largely from a blog he once kept on the cutting-edge "Bullogger" blogging platform, it consists of short chunks – anywhere from a sentence to ten pages – of writing, some chunks obviously fictional, some more journal-like. Among them are early forms of some of his stories – "The Bird Saw Me" and Cat and Mouse (which is appearing in Today magazine next month, under a new title, I forget which) – as well as, one assumes, some ideas that never made it into fiction at all. One of these, titled "Warmth", I've translated below. Enjoy!


Beijing International Book Fair, Days 2 and 3: Writers Get Hot

By Eric Abrahamsen, September 6, '11

After a fairly lukewarm showing on Day 1, attendance at the book fair spiked noticeably on September 1st and 2nd. A number of the major Chinese publishers (like Fonghong and People’s Literature) held their major events during these days, and the digital publishing booth had a fairly full schedule. Open Book, Ltd. gave two presentations on the 1st related to digital publishing in China, the first a market analysis and the second designed around the results of a reader’s survey carried out among online readers and bookshop visitors.


Chutzpah/Peregrine Downloads

By Eric Abrahamsen, May 14, '11

Back in March we mentioned on the newsletter that Ou Ning had started a new literary magazine called Chutzpah (天南 in Chinese). It's got a English-language supplement (Ou Ning refers to it as a "parasite") called Peregrine featuring English translations of some of the content. The first issue of Peregrine is available for download as a PDF here. Translators include Lucy Johnston, Julia Lovell, Anna Holmwood, Dinah Gardner and Shumei Roan, translating Li Rui, A Yi, Gu Qian, and Liu Zheng, take a look!


Inventory: Call For Submissions

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 17, '11

Inventory is calling for submissions for its second issue, deadline June 2. From their submissions guidelines (PDF):

Inventory publishes thoughtful translations and focuses critical attention on translation theory and practice. Based in Princeton University’s Department of Comparative Literature, Inventory finds and catalogues original translations of poetry and prose from any language into English, provides critical texts on the subject of translation, and offers suggestions by leaders in various fields of translation work left to be done.

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Two Sites

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 17, '11

Two websites to draw your attention to:

Artspace China is a blog run by Christen Cornell, a PhD student at the University of Sydney. It's got lots of great stuff about all the Chinese arts, with a fair helping of Chinese literature in particular.

We can't really read china traducida y por traducir, given that it's in Spanish, but the website, run by Spanish-language translators, aims to do something like what we do here, except in… Spanish. A sister site!