By Eric Abrahamsen, published

After an evening spent sipping Qingdao and grumbling about the low profile of Chinese literature abroad, we're generally forced to concede that baby steps are the only practical solution to the problem. There's a chicken-and-egg dynamic going on with publishers – they won't publish a book in translation if the author has no name recognition, but without publication authors have precious little means of getting recognized. Realistically, what's needed is a slow-drip campaign of small-scale publication, word of mouth, and literary journalism. It will be slow, but it's the only way that the attention of publishers and readers can be drawn to a wider selection of Chinese fiction.

So it's good to see two recent advances in that campaign. First was the Olympic Voices from China issue of Words Without Borders: a collection of translated short stories drawn heavily from some of China's better female writers: Sheng Keyi, Ye Mi, Liu Sola and others. Not all of the translations are top-notch, but it's good to see these writers represented. Sheng Keyi's Little Girl Lost got good treatment; you can hear the strangeness of her Chinese in places: "Ripples spread from the doorframe as water slid back from both sides, showing off the bright slickness of his skin."

The other is a books issue of Public Radio International's The World program. The contributions are knowledgeable, ranging from an article on China's Nobel Prize complex, to a review of Zhu Wen's I Love Dollars, to an interview with Yu Hua. Our Cindy and our Brendan are in there too!

I suppose only incremental progress is real progress…


# 1.   

Speaking of "Olympic Voices from China," I've been looking for fiction that deals with the Olympics. I've run across a few short stories (SF mostly), and the latest issue of October contains a lengthy, gently satirical novel by Xu Kun that describes how one northern city prepares to host some preliminary events. But I haven't found much else. Any ideas?

zhwj, April 21, 2008, 11:02p.m.

# 2.   

"Olympic fiction"… the temptation is well-nigh irresistible. Sadly, no, I haven't read of anything dealing with the Olympics, but I'll ask around.

Eric, April 21, 2008, 11:47p.m.


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