Nicky Harman

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Nicky Harman lives in the UK. She translates full-time from Chinese, focussing on contemporary fiction, literary non-fiction, and occasionally poetry, by a wide variety of authors. When not translating, she spends time promoting contemporary Chinese fiction to English-language readers. She works for, a non-profit registered in the UK, where she is also a trustee. She writes blogs (for instance Asian Books Blog), give talks and lectures, and takes part in literary events and festivals, especially with the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing. She also mentors new translators, teaches summer schools (Norwich, London, Warwick and Bristol), and judges translation competitions. She tweets, with Helen Wang, as the China Fiction Bookclub @cfbcuk.

She taught on the MSc in Translation at Imperial College until 2011 and was co-Chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors) 2014-2017.

Winner of the 2020 Special Book Award of China; the 2015 Mao Tai Cup People's Literature Chinese-English translation prize; and of first prize in the 2013 China International Translation Contest, Chinese-to-English section, with Jia Pingwa’s "Backflow River", 倒流河

Forthcoming publications:

Beijing Boys, A Novel (《男孩们》) Annabel Yang Hao, co-translated with Michael Day, Balestier, 2024
Fellow Feelings, Collected stories by Han Dong, co-translated with Megan Copeland and Jack Hargreaves, no publications details yet

2023 publications:

Shaanxi Opera, (《秦腔》), Jia Pingwa, co-translated with Dylan Levi King, Amazon Crossing, 2023.
The Sojourn Teashop (《暂坐》), Jia Pingwa, co-translated with Jun Liu, Sinoist Books, 2023

2022 publications:

Flight of the Bumblebee (《野蜂飞舞》)Huang Beijia, Balestier , 2023
Wake Me Up at Nine in the Morning, (《早上九点叫醒我》), A Yi, Oneworld
Literary Lectures (《文学课》) , by Bi Feiyu, Routledge
Dinner for Six (《六人晚餐》), co-translated with Helen Wang, Balestier
I Want to be Good (《我要做好孩子》) , Huang Beijia, New Classic Books

2021 publications:

More Than One Child: Memoirs of an Illegal Daughter, Shen Yang, Balestier

2020 publications:

Oriental Silk, by Zhu Xiaowen, Hatje Cantz (Germany)

2019 publications:

Broken Wings, By Jia Pingwa, ACA Publishing

2018 publications:

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan, by Yan Ge, Balestier Press (awarded a PEN Translates grant)

Our Story: A Memoir of Love and Life in China, by Rao Pingru, Knopf Doubleday (awarded a PEN Translates grant)

2017 publications:

Jia Pingwa, Happy Dreams, Amazon Crossing, 2017.

Fish Tank Creatures, by Dorothy Tse, short story, translated with Natascha Bruce

2016 publications:

Crystal Wedding, novel by Xu Xiaobin, Balestier Press, 2016 (awarded a PEN Translates grant)

2015 publications:

Paper Tiger, essays by Xu Zhiyuan, co-translated with Michelle Deeter, Head of Zeus, 2015 (awarded a PEN Translates grant).
Sissy Zhong by Yan Ge, published READ PAPER REPUBLIC.
January:Bridges, by Dorothy Tse, published READ PAPER REPUBLIC. The translation and editing of this story is discussed and illustrated here: Free Word Centre.

Also, 2015-2016, READ PAPER REPUBLIC short story series: launching, planning, translating, editing, promotion and publicity.

2014 publications:

The Book of Sins by Chen Xiwo published by FortySix, October 2014.

White Horse, novella by Yan Ge, Hope Road Publishing, October 2014.

A Tabby-cat's Tale by Han Dong, winter 2014.

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver by Chan Koon-chung, Doubleday, April 2014.

Snow and Shadow, short story collection by Dorothy Tse, East Slope Publishing, March 2014.

A New Development Model and China’s Future, by Deng Yingtao, Routledge, March, 2014.

The Stone Ox that Grazed, short story by Sun Yisheng in Asymptote, April 2014.

A Loud Noise, poems by Han Dong, March 2014.

Other Published Translations in date order:

Urban Control and the Modernist City - essay by Leung Man-Tao, in LA Review of Books, originally appeared in Paper Republic, August 2013.

Woman Fish, by Dorothy Tse, for the Guardian newspaper, March 2013

The Shades who Periscope through Flowers to the Sky, by Sun Yisheng, for Words Without Borders, December 2012, and Dad, Your Name is Bao Tian, by Sun Yisheng, for The World of Chinese, March 2013.

Old Man Xinjiang, by Xue Mo, in China Stories for the Guardian newspaper, April 2012.

The Man with the Knife by Chen Xiwo, for Words Without Borders, November 2012

'Goodbye to Anne', in the novella collection The Road of Others, by Anni Baobei, Makedo Publishing, 2012.

Throwing out the Baby, by Xu Zechen, in Words Without Border, April 2012.

Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China, Comma Press "Tales from Ten Cities" series, the two by Han Dong and Ding Liying, 2012

Flowers of Nanjing by Yan Geling, , published by Chatto and Windus, January 2012

A Phone Call from Dalian: Selected Poems by Han Dong, published by Zephyr Press, April 2012. Multiple reviews including World Literature Today and Peony Moon

The Eye of the Eagle, short story by Bai Hua, published by Hope Road Publishing

Prize-winning novel Gold Mountain Blues/Jin Shan by Zhang Ling, published by Penguin Canada

Short stories for Ou Ning's Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, 2009, and literary magazine Chutzpah, 2010 and 2011.

Message from Unknown Chinese Mothers (Author: Xinran), Chatto & Windus, 2010.

China Witness (author: Xinran), oral history Co-translator with Esther Tyldesley and Julia Lovell. Chatto & Windus , 2008.

Banished! (author: Han Dong) (《扎根》 韩东), novel. University of Hawai’i Press, 2009. Won a PEN Translation Fund Award (2006) for this work. Longlisted for Man Asian Literary Prize, 2008.

‘Long Corridor, Short Song’ (author: Zi Ren, in To Pierce the Material Screen: An Anthology of 20th Century HK Literature, to be pub. Renditions, Hong Kong 2008); (《长廊的短调》 梓人) short story.

China Along the Yellow River (author: Prof. Cao Jinqing, pub. Routledge Curzon, December 2004); (《黄河边的中国》 曹锦清) sociology of rural China.

K – The Art of Love (author: Hong Ying, pub. Marion Boyars, 2002); (K 虹影) novel.

Research publications:

Li Hao: Translation of Contemporary Chinese Literature in the English-speaking World: An Interview with Nicky Harman, The AALITRA Review, No 4 (2012)

What's that got to do with anything? Coherence and the translation of relative clauses from Chinese. In Journal of Specialised Translation ( issue 13, January 2010

Foreign Culture, Foreign Style: a Translator’s View of Modern Chinese Fiction. In Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 14(1): 13-31. (2006).

Beyond Paper Dictionaries: Mining the Web for Technical Terminology in Chinese (available from, or on request from NH).

Visiting Fellow at the Research Centre for Translation at Chinese University Hong Kong, April 2006. Visiting Scholar, Fudan University and Beijing University, China, 2008.

Nicky Harman translated for READ PAPER REPUBLIC, week 3, 2 July 2015, and READ PAPER REPUBLIC, week 10, 20 August 2015.


Read Now: On Paper Republic

One Night on the Wharf by Han Dong February 01, 2022
View from a Window by Han Dong April 16, 2020
Hide! Hide! Hide! by Yan Geling March 28, 2020
Letter to My Mother by Ou Ning October 04, 2018
Dad Your Name is Field-Keeper by Sun Yisheng February 04, 2017
Gu Jieming – a Life by Han Dong June 09, 2016
The Bathtub – Scene of a Struggle by Han Dong May 12, 2016
Snow by Xu Xiaobin tr. Natascha Bruce and Nicky Harman March 24, 2016
That Damned Thing She Said by Fu Yuli March 03, 2016
Backflow River by Jia Pingwa February 25, 2016
Apery by Sun Yisheng January 28, 2016
The Cry of the Deer by Han Dong January 21, 2016
Sissy Zhong by Yan Ge August 20, 2015
January: Bridges by Dorothy (Hiu Hung) Tse July 02, 2015

Read Now: Around the Web

The Cry of the Deer by Han Dong Pathlight: New Chinese Writing
Mother Earth (excerpt) by Chiu Zu-Yin Books from Taiwan
Free! by Wang Bang Words Without Borders
Old Man Xinjiang by Xue Mo The Guardian

Book Publications

The Shaanxi Opera cover

The Shaanxi Opera

Jia Pingwa | Nicky Harman and Dylan Levi King

May 23, 2023

Flight of the Bumblebee cover

Flight of the Bumblebee

Huang Beijia

December 30, 2022

Dinner for Six cover

Dinner for Six

Lu Min | Nicky Harman and Helen Wang

November 22, 2022

I Want to To Be Good cover

I Want to To Be Good

Huang Beijia

January 01, 2021

Broken Wings cover

Broken Wings

Jia Pingwa

May 03, 2019

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan cover

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan

Yan Ge

May 01, 2018

Happy Dreams cover

Happy Dreams

Jia Pingwa

October 01, 2017

Crystal Wedding cover

Crystal Wedding

Xu Xiaobin

January 01, 2016

White Horse cover

White Horse

Yan Ge

March 01, 2014

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver cover

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver

Chan Koon-Chung

January 01, 2014

Gold Mountain Blues cover

Gold Mountain Blues

Zhang Ling

March 01, 2012

K: The Art of Love cover

K: The Art of Love

Hong Ying | Nicky Harman and Henry Y.H. Zhao

June 15, 2004

Original Works

Non-fiction (1)

All Translations

Poem (27)

Short story (38)

Novella (1)

Novel (15)

Essay (3)

Non-fiction (2)

Graphic novel (1)

Excerpt (3)

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.


Reviewing translations: Jonathan stalling, Chinese Literature Today

By Nicky Harman, January 8, '14

I (Nicky) was very struck by JS's review of a review in LA Review of Books of Mo Yan's Sandalwood Death. It appeared on the MCLC list. His words immediately reminded me of the endless debates we've had in UK among translators, about how we'd like our translations reviewed, and the struggles to remind even long-established cultural institutions like the BBC that translations of poetry and fiction should be credited when they are broadcast, not treated as if the author had originally written in English. With Jonathan's permission, I have reproduced his letter to the list here. In the event, it sparked off a lively debate, including contributions from the reviewer, Jiwei Xiao, herself. Those interested can join the list to read the whole thread.


I was quite excited to discover that at long last the LARB had published a review of Mo Yan’s Sandalwood Death. As the editor of the CLT Book Series that published Howard Goldblatt’s English translation of the novel at the beginning of 2013, I had all but given up on the LARB reviewing it. By the time I reached the end of this substantial review, however, I had to face a rather peculiar and unsettling reality: after nearly 2,400 words, the reviewer, Jiwei Xiao, never mentions the fact that the book she is reviewing is Howard Goldblatt’s English translation of Mo Yan’s novel. I may be a bit more sensitive to this omission given the fact that I, as the editor and a translator myself, am quite excited by the attention Goldlatt’s translation is getting from the translation community: the book has already been nominated for several awards, and, in fact, only a few months earlier Goldblatt had been interviewed by LARB about his translation work!

So while Xiao quotes liberally from the English text (sans citations), she never mentions even once that the book under review is not《檀香刑》, which was published well over a decade ago, but is instead its English translation. Of course, any review of translated literature will necessarily focus on the merits of the original, but at the very least professionalism requires a reviewer to acknowledge the work of the translator in some form. Most of the time readers rely on a review to find out whether a book is a good read in English, so it is important for a reviewer to offer a critical opinion on this matter so the reader can make an informed decision. In this review, however, the reader is invited to enter the original text as if it were still in Chinese, yet miraculously transparent to the English reader’s mind.

The reviewer spends a fair amount of time discussing the “dissonant sounds” upon which “the novel was inspired,” and while Mo Yan’s aural ingenuity naturally rests at the heart of the reviewer’s commentary, it is important to note that these aural textures were delicately and boldly translated into English by Goldblatt. In fact, I would argue that these challenging moments constitute some of the most formally experimental—and successful—moments in Goldblatt’s esteemed career. When I first read the translated manuscript, I marveled at his ability to imbue the English with a parallel set of aural textures (rhyme, meters, vocables, etc.), producing often uncanny results.

Yet this is not really what left me feeling so uneasy. Instead, I fear that there remains a deep and stubborn refusal to take translation (and translation studies) seriously enough within both Chinese Studies and our broader public literary culture (after all, the LARB editors must have first read this piece before publishing it). I am not going to speculate on the latent ideological (or epistemological) conditions that undergird moments like these, but I do feel we must take such opportunities to refocus attention on the collaborative nature of world literature translated into English. As most people know, literary translators are incredibly important cultural producers and yet most of them struggle to make a living wage from their work. In fact, a recent report by the Conseil Européen des Associations de Traducteurs Littéraires concludes with the following observation: This survey clearly shows that literary translators cannot survive in the conditions imposed on them by "the market". This is a serious social problem on a continent that is meant to be developed, multilingual and multicultural, but it is also and most importantly a very serious artistic and cultural problem. Indeed, what does it say about the quality of literary exchange between our societies if literary translators are forced to dash off their work just to be able to earn a basic living?

The objectives outlined by UNESCO in its 1976 Nairobi Recommendation are far from being realised, that is the least one can say. It’s time to act! (

What is true in the European context is even worse in the US (and for Chinese-English-Chinese translation, the pay scale of which is often calculated in RMB as a way of lowering the cost). Translators work for many of the same mysterious reasons writers do—not because it pays well (though I hope this can be remedied soon), but to contribute to the cultural work of our time, to participate in the global conversation of literature itself. If our work as translators is not discussed in reviews of our work (or even simply acknowledged), when, pray tell, will it be?

It is important for me to note, however, that I believe Professor Xiao would have gladly incorporated her thoughts on the translated nature of the text had it been brought up in the editing/review process, or if it had been listed as a prerequisite on the LARB contributor information page, or if there existed broader university support of and academic/prestige capital invested into translation inside the realm of Chinese Studies. So I do not wish for the instructive moment of this review to be reduced to a critique of this review alone (for clearly Professor Xiao has many interesting things to say about this novel), but as a general reminder to all reviewers (and to those of us who publish them) to spend a moment engaging with (or better yet, exploring) the translative nature of world literature, for this is our responsibility, not to mention one of the great joys of our work.

Jonathan Stalling Chinese Literature Today


2013 - roll call of Chinese-to-English fiction and poetry translations

By Nicky Harman, December 13, '13

Here's this year's list, compiled by Nicky Harman and Helen Wang. Feel free to add any we've missed out:

Ten Loves by Zhang Yueran , translated by Jeremy Tiang , pub. Math Paper Press, Singapore

Island of Silence by Su Wei-chen , translated by Jeremy Tiang , pub. Ethos Books, Singapore

Durians Are Not The Only Fruit by Wong Yoon Wah , translated by Jeremy Tiang , pub. Epigram Books, Singapore

Tongwan City by Gao Jianqun, translated by Eric Mu, pub. CN times Books.

I can almost see the clouds of dust, poems by Yu Xiang, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, pub. Zephyr Press and Chinese University Press of Hong Kong (bilingual)

Canyon in the body, poems by Lan Lan, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, pub. Zephyr Press and Chinese University Press of Hong Kong (bilingual)

Wind says, poems by Bai Hua, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, pub. Zephyr Press and Chinese University Press of Hong Kong (bilingual)

Other Cities, Other Lives by Chew Kok Chang , translated by Shelly Bryant , pub. Epigram Books, Singapore

Mr Ma and Son by Lao She , translated by William Dolby , pub. Penguin Modern Classics

Cat Country by Lao She , translated by William A Lyell , pub. Penguin Modern Classics

Irina’s Hat: New Short Stories From China by Authors and translators various , translated by ed. Josh Stenberg , pub. Merwin Asia

Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian , translated by Bruce Humes , pub. Harvill Secker

The Song of King Gesar by Alai , translated by Howard Goldblatt , pub. Canongate Books Ltd

Black Flame by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane , translated by Anna Holmwood , pub. Groundwood Books of Toronto, Canada (in association with Anansi Books)

For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey Through a Chinese Prison by Liao Yiwu , translated by Wenguang Huang , pub. New Harvest Books

The Matchmaker, The Apprentice and The Football Fan by Zhu Wen , translated by Julia Lovell , pub. Columbia University Press

The Earnest Mask by Xi Ni Er , translated by Howard Goldblatt & Sylvia Li-chun Lin , pub. Epigram Books, Singapore

The Man With The Compound Eyes, by Wu Ming-Yi, tr Darryl Sterk, pub. Harvill Secker

Every Rock a Universe: The Yellow Mountains and Chinese Travel Writing, writings by 17th century poet and artist Wang Hongdu, translated by Jonathan Chaves (Floating World Editions). Review forthcoming in Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews.

Search for the Buried Bomber, by Xu Lei, tr. Gabriel Ascher, pub. AmazonCrossing


Translator Residencies, London 2014

By Nicky Harman, August 1, '13

Free Word London ("a global meeting place for literature, argument and free thinking") are offering two places on its Translators in Residence programme for 2014. Any languages can be offered by interested applicants. More information, including deadline for application, available here:

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Translation thrives on Twitter

By Nicky Harman, March 22, '13

Some of you will have noticed that the London–based China Fiction Book Club, has a thriving twitter account, @cfbcuk. Launched, serendipitously, the day of the announcement that Mo Yan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it's going strong and has nearly 200 followers…(198 today and counting. Several new followers arrived between yesterday and today as a result of the Dorothy Tse story which appeared in the Guardian). PLUS Helen Wang has launched 3 more Twitter accounts, all worth browsing: Story of the Stone @caoxueqin1760; Lin Yutang @lytwords; and – together with the Emerging Translators Network - Translated World, @translatedworld. These have daily posts - have a look. If you don't yet have a Twitter account, then google the @names and you can reads the tweets...

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Chinese writer features in new Guardian newspaper series of water-themed stories

By Nicky Harman, March 15, '13

"Writers have long been fascinated by the wet stuff, and now we're opening the floodgates on a series of aquatic-themed short stories" says Richard Lea in the Guardian today. The Guardian has featured Chinese fiction before - five short stories translated from Chinese marked last year's London Book Fair. The current collection of "water" stories are from all around the world, some written in English, others translated. Dorothy Tse (谢晓红)wrote one in Chinese especially for this series, and it's translated by me.

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2012 translations from Chinese - the final list!

By Nicky Harman, December 31, '12

Thanks, everyone, for your additions and corrections. Here's what we've got now:


An Unusual Princess, by Wu Meizhen, tr. Petula Parris-Huang (Egmont UK)
Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City, by Dung Kai-cheung, tr. Dung Kai-cheung, Bonnie McDougall and Anders Hansson, Columbia University Press
Dream of Ding Village, Yan Lianke, tr. Cindy Carter (Constable)
Flowers of War, by Geling Yan, tr. Nicky Harman (Chatto & Windus)
Hanging Devils, by He Jiahong, tr. Duncan Hewitt (Penguin China/Australia)
Jackal and Wolf, by Shen Shixi, tr. Helen Wang (Egmont UK)
Lenin's Kisses by Yan Lianke tr. Carlos Rojas (Chatto & Windus)
Northern Girls, by Sheng Keyi, tr. Shelley Bryant (Penguin China/Australia)
Pai Hua Zi and the Clever Girl, by Zhang Xinxin, tr. Helen Wang (
Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China, various authors and translators (Comma Press)
The Civil Servant’s Notebook, by Wang Xiaofang, tr. Eric Abrahamsen (Penguin China/Australia)
The Road of Others, by Anni Baobei, tr. Nicky Harman (Make Do Publishing)
This Generation: Dispatches from China's Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver) Han Han tr. Allan Barr (Simon & Schuster)
Trees Without Wind: A Novel, Li Rui, tr. John Balcom, Columbia University Press
Under the Hawthorn Tree, by Ai Mi, tr. Anna Holmwood (Virago Press)


A Phone Call From Dalian, Han Dong, tr. Nicky Harman and others, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
Doubled Shadows, Ouyang Jianghe, tr. Austin Woerner, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, tr. W.N. Herbert, Yang Lian, Brian Holton and Qin Xiaoyu (Bloodaxe Books)
June 4th Elegies, Liu Xiaobo, tr. Jeffrey Yang, (Graywolf Press)
Notes on the Mosquito, Poems of Xi Chuan, tr. Lucas Klein (New Directions Publishing)
Stone Cell, Lo Fu, tr. John Balcom, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
The Changing Room, Zhai Yongming, tr. Andrea Lingenfelter, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)
Wind Says, Bai Hua, tr. Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Zephyr Press (Jintian series)

2013 January, fiction

Last quarter of the Moon, Chi Zijian tr. Bruce Humes, Jan 2013 (Harvill Secker)
Sandalwood Death, Mo Yan, tr. Howard Goldblatt, Jan 2013 ( University of Oklahoma Press)

And a Happy New Year to all!


It’s been a good year for Chinese fiction in English.

By Nicky Harman, December 20, '12

I make it a total of nineteen books. OK, I’ve cheated a bit – three of the publications below are poetry, and two others come out in January 2013. Still, it’s a good haul and many times better than the annual total, say, ten years ago. (Please post a comment if I’ve missed anyone out.) I couldn’t begin to add up just how many hours of translation the whole list represents, and that’s without the extra work translators have put in, on some of these books, to get them off the ground. So, lets raise a glass to translation and all pat ourselves on the back!

In alphabetical order, this year’s publications from Chinese are: