Nicky Harman

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Nicky Harman lives in the UK. She is co-Chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors). She taught on the MSc in Translation at Imperial College until 2011 and now translates full-time from Chinese. She focusses on fiction, literary non-fiction, and occasionally poetry, by authors such as Chen Xiwo, Han Dong, Hong Ying, Dorothy Tse, Xinran, Yan Geling and Zhang Ling. When not translating, she spends time promoting contemporary Chinese fiction to the general English-language reader. From June 2015-June 2016, she, along with Eric Abrahamsen, Dave Haysom and Helen Wang, ran READ PAPER REPUBLIC, posting and promoting a free-to-view short story every week for a year, a project which continues to develop.

She writes blogs, give talks and lectures, and runs literary events especially with the London Free Word Centre, Southbank Centre and the Writing Chinese project (Leeds University). She also mentors new translators, teaches summer schools, and judges translation competitions: the Harvill Secker Young Translators Prize 2012, and the Writing Chinese Translation competition, run by the White Rose East Centre, University of Leeds. Also occasionally reviews China books for the UK's Tribune magazine (eg review of Sheng Keyi's Death Fugue, Giramondo, 2014) . She tweets, with Helen Wang, as the China Fiction Bookclub @cfbcuk.

Winner of a Mao Tai Cup People's Literature Chinese-English translation prize 2015. Link here: in Chinese
Winner of first prize in the 2013 China International Translation Contest, Chinese-to-English section, with Jia Pingwa’s "Backflow River", 倒流河

Forthcoming: I Want to be Good (《我要做好孩子》) , Huang Beijia
Wake Me Up at Nine in the Morning, (《早上九点叫醒我》), A Yi, Oneworld
Shaanxi Opera, (《秦腔》), Jia Pingwa, Amazon Crossing

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 Paper Republic

Original Works

Non-fiction (1)


Novellas (1)

Graphic novels (1)

Non-fiction (2)

Excerpts (2)

Essays (3)

Novels (13)

Poems (27)

Short stories (39)

As Editor


The real fiction about Foxconn

By Nicky Harman, March 25, '12

Real facts about Apple’s supplier Foxconn are in short supply (in spite of the best efforts of Mike Daisey and This American Life) since both Chinese and Western reporters are kept out. So perhaps it’s time for fiction to open the factory gates and give us an imaginative look inside. Chinese novelist and poet, Han Dong, was commissioned to write something for the inaugural issue of GQ (China) Magazine in 2010. In response by the first spate of Foxconn suicides, he wrote this tongue-in-cheek fairy-tale/love story. It's all here: the monotonous hard work, the rule-bound life, the manipulative reporter, the profit-driven bosses and their sycophantic sidekicks....

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China Inside Day 29 March looking for UK-based reading group to read Chinese fiction

By Nicky Harman, February 20, '12

If you're interested in joining this one-off reading group (and getting free books [in English] by Chinese writers!) please contact Harpreet direct: Harpreet says: "As part of PEN’s China Inside Out day, we’re recruiting readers to read books by authors that are taking part in the day’s programme. We have sets of books by Kerry Young, Diane Wei Lang and Ma Jian (possibly also Zhang Ling) to give away to reading groups as well as free tickets to the author event, held at the Free Word centre on March 29. If you would like to take part in this reading group offer and join us for a brilliant day of events please email me ( for more information."


Translation Summer School 2012 in London for native English-speakers

By Nicky Harman, January 18, '12

Following the great success of last year’s Summer School, we are delighted to announce the expanded Summer School 2012. This five-day event will take place at Birkbeck University of London (43 Gordon Square WC1H 0PD) on 9-13 July 2012. It comprises courses in translation into English from Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – each language subject to a minimum group-size of five students – and an editing skills course for all. There will also be games, a competition, meet-the-publishers, and guest lectures and workshops.

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Here’s a novel way to get your favourite translated short story out there – podcasts

By Nicky Harman, January 16, '12

At the Free Word Translator Residency we ran a BookclubFest where I was approached by Steve Wasserman of the Short Story Bookclub asking for a Han Dong story. The long and the short of it is that I provided The Deer Park and he recorded it. I was over the moon when I listened, and I love the picture he provided too. The story seems to acquire a whole new life of its own as it’s being read alive. This particular website provides all sorts of podcast stories for free (NB he doesn’t pay the writer/translator). There’s at least one other UK–based site I know of that does something similar. I very much like the idea, as a great alternative to printed short story collections.

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Are we kidding ourselves we even understand works in translation? Is great national literature universal because it is great, or great because it is universal? Another Free Word Centre event, London

By Nicky Harman, October 15, '11

The New International? Literature in an age of ‘globish’, talk on Thursday 20 October 2011, 7.00pm until 9.00pm, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA. For details see here. Not strictly Chinese-focussed and nothing to do with me, but I promised I'd pass the news on. It sounds very interesting.

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So you think you can make translation sexy?

By Nicky Harman, October 14, '11

So I’ve had to dream up a series of Free Word Centre talks for a non-specialist, non-translator audience, which are China/translation-focussed. Why not ask myself? It seemed like a great idea at first. I could hardly refuse…. So I did: “Nicky, will you give a talk on ‘3,000 years of Chinese translation’? “Yes Nicky, I will, no problem.”

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Another upcoming translation event in London

By Nicky Harman, September 9, '11

Book Club Fest

Love reading? Enjoy talking about books with other people? Interested in other countries? Come and join us for an evening of reading foreign stories in translation from countries including China, Mexico and Sweden. VENUE: Free Word Centre, Wednesday 21 September 2011 6.30 – 8.30pm. How it works: Register online and we’ll email you all the texts as PDFs. Read the stories, then when you arrive at Free Word on the night you’ll receive a printout of them all, plus a free glass of wine. There’s 1 room, lots of book clubs, lots of short stories, and lots of book-lovers. Join a group, take part in the discussion, move around when the bell rings, then all come together at the end and share your thoughts!

Free, but registration essential


London Literary Event

By Nicky Harman, July 25, '11

Chinese Fables
Bi Feiyu and Chan Koonchung
23rd August at 6:30pm
Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA   We’re delighted to bring two of China’s most respected and controversial authors together in this unique event at the Free Word Centre. Bi Feiyu won this year’s Man Asian Literary Prize for his masterful novel Three Sisters. The author was due to visit the UK last year to promote his book – an epic portrayal of contemporary Chinese culture – but was caught in visa bureaucracy. Chan Koonchung’s political fable The Fat Years, banned in China, will be available in English in July 2011.   Join these two fascinating writers as they discuss fables, families – and fat years – with critic Lucy Popescu (author of The Good Tourist). In association with Telegram Books and Transworld Publishers.   Booking details: or call 0207 3242 570
Tickets: £5 (£3 PEN members/concessions)

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