2021 Roll Call of Published Translations from Chinese into English

By Nicky Harman, published

Part of: Year-End Roll Call

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There’s good and bad news this year. The good news is that books translated from Chinese have won an encouragingly wide selection of translation prizes and awards. For the first time, we have listed them below in different categories: prizes, awards and ‘other successes’. The not-so-good news is that, as in previous years, women writers and women poets are far less well-represented than men. The gender imbalance in all categories is shocking!
As usual, please let us know if you’d like to add books, star reviews and awards that we may have missed off the lists. Finally, we’re delighted to be able to add links to lists of books translated from Chinese into other languages. (Do let us know if there are more we can include.)

Star Reviews

The Secret Talker | Review 1 , Review 2
Faraway | Review
The Wedding Party | Review
Sinopticon: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction | Review
Winter Pasture | Review

Prizes, Awards and Other Successes



Other Successes

Zhu Yue’s short story, “Leaving Home,” translated by Jianan Qian and Alyssa Asquith, was selected for the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology

World Literature Todays 100 Notable Translations of 2021 include

General Fiction

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Martial Arts fiction





Children's picture books, published by Reycraft 2021
CCPPG = Translation provided by China Children’s Press and Publication Group Co., Ltd.

Translators from Chinese into other languages have of course been busy as well. We are delighted to list the following links. Please add other links and languages in Comments below, and we will include them here.

Chinese to Dutch translations, listed at Verretaal.

Chinese to Spanish translations (published in Spain but not Latin America) listed here. It includes books translated into Galician, Catalan and Basque too.

Chinese to Swedish translations listed here, although Blogger may not be accessible in China.

Chinese to French translations listed here.


# 1.   

I want to put in a good word for:

Yun Ji, translated by Yi Izzy Yu and John Yu Branscum, The Shadow Book of Ji Yun: The Chinese Classic of Weird True Tales, Horror Stories, and Occult Knowledge (Empress Wu Books (June 7, 2021)

Despite what the title might suggest, the book is not simply period genre fiction. The author, Ji Yun (1724–1805), was a renowned scholar of the mid-Qing period and, though a Confucianist, was attracted to Taoist thought. The translation is well curated (the original work(s) included over 1000 stories) and very fresh and readable, and while some of the stories are more engrossing than others, all are interesting and thoughtful.

John Armstrong, December 16, 2021, 4:19p.m.

# 2.   

And some additions from Cambria Press:

From Rural China to the Ivy League: Reminiscences of Transformations in Modern Chinese History by Yü Ying-shih, translated by Michael S. Duke and Josephine Chiiu-Duke https://www.cambriapress.com/YuYing-shih

Strange Bedfellows (translation of 吃瓜时代的儿女们) by Liu Zhenyun (trans. Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin) https://www.cambriapress.com/LiuZhenyunStrangeBedfellows

A Son of Taiwan: Stories of Government Atrocity translated and edited by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin https://www.cambriapress.com/SonofTaiwan

Transitions in Taiwan: Stories of the White Terror translated and edited by Ian Rowen https://www.cambriapress.com/TransitionsTaiwan

The Soul of Jade Mountain by Husluman Vava, translated by Terence Russell https://www.cambriapress.com/HuslumanVava

A Taiwanese Literature Reader edited by Nikky Lin https://www.cambriapress.com/TaiwanLiteratureReader/

Nicky Harman, December 18, 2021, 4:21p.m.

# 3.   

I noticed that Scum Villain by MXTX made it onto the list and was wondering what’s everyone’s opinion on unlicensed fan translations? Do you support the business model of publishers buying ready-made amateur translations (probably at a fairly low price for the size of the novel)? What are your thoughts on the translation quality and copyright implications for the industry? Where will this leave pro-translators if the business model takes off?

For context, EN translations of the 3 MXTX books existed as unlicensed (free) fan translations before Seven Seas decided to capitalise on MXTX’s overseas popularity and purchase the official licence to publish them.

I see both pros and cons in the new business model, especially since some of these webnovels are so long that it’s not commercially viable to publish their translations in any other way. But I’m interested in what others in the pro-translator and publisher community think of the potential future trend.

JS, December 20, 2021, 10:46a.m.

# 4.   

Personally I don't see a very clear distinction between "pro translator" and "someone who did a translation and then had it picked up by a publishing house". I feel like both of those labels apply perfectly well to myself, for instance :)

It's definitely an unusual situation for the translation to be publicly, freely available prior to the publisher picking it up, but that's really the publisher's gamble, and the publisher's risk, not the translator's.

No matter how the translation comes to market, one of the most important services a publisher can provide is editing. Everyone needs editing, from "pros" to "amateurs". I would hope that Seven Seas is providing that service, that its value would be evident in a before-and-after comparison of the texts, and that that might lead to more readers and more sales for the new publication.

People often point out that readers are far more tolerant of poor translations when it comes to genre fiction. I don't know how true that is, and also don't know how much it matters.

Anyway, I sidetracked myself a little bit there -- all I wanted to say is that I don't see anything wrong with this model, and don't think anyone should feel threatened by it.

Eric Abrahamsen, December 20, 2021, 7:18p.m.

# 5.   

Hello, first I'd like to add a book that I translated on the list: "Vulpecula's Love Letter: Farewell at the Galaxy" by Yaya that was published in January by Peach Flower House LLC. The same publisher also published volumes 1 and 2 of "In the Dark" by Jin Shisi Chai in September and December, another novel that falls under the similar Danmei category as the MXTX novels: https://www.peachflowerhouse.com/titles

I'd like to add my two cents regarding the new industry model with webnovel and genre fiction as well. I see both pros and cons of having free content available before publication, and this is a case that mirrored the earlier Japanese manga industry 10 to 20 years ago, when pirate scanlations were more rampant and easily accessible than official distribution of English licenses. In terms of legalities, I think that is something publishers need to work out as risks for future titles.

I have taken a peek at the official publications from Seven Seas and unfortunately, it does feel that editorial support is lacking with some obvious mistranslation in place, and the glossary included some misinformation about Chinese culture. I am worried that the publisher is not putting enough effort into the editing and production aspect of these novels from what I have seen so far, which I'm sure they have the resources to execute from their previous experience in manga and light novel publishing. As someone who was looking forward to the novels I am quite saddened by this fact and I do hope Seven Seas can improve on this aspect.

LH, December 27, 2021, 7:24a.m.

# 6.   

Just a supplement to #1: Ji Yun, a.k.a. Ji Xiaolan was a high-ranking government official and was in charge of the compilation of the Siku quanshu, one of the largest encyclopedic projects ever. He was also popularized by Zhang Guoli’s brilliant portrayal of him in the comedic tv series Tiechi tongya Ji Xiaolan (The Razor-Sharp Wit Ji Xiaolan) for four seasons starting in 2002. It sounds like this is a translation of at least parts of his collection of biji called Yuewei caotang biji.

Charles Laughlin, December 31, 2021, 6:05a.m.


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