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


China Fiction Book Club in London

By Nicky Harman, February 25, '11

By Yu Yan Chen

China Fiction Book Club is a gathering of kindred spirits bonded together by the love for Chinese language and literature. Over tea and snacks, members meet about once every two months to translate a piece of contemporary Chinese literature into English. Our first meeting in autumn 2010 took place at an elegant café near SOAS, but our next meeting on 16 March from 6:00 to 8:00 will be held at RADA.


Quality Non–Fiction in the Digital Age, Amsterdam Conference 2011

By Nicky Harman, February 1, '11

Fish out of water? Lone voice crying in the wilderness? (well, alright, in the Quality Non–Fiction in the Digital Age conference). At the start, I was a little unsure about what role I, as the sole translator–speaker, was going to play at a conference largely attended by international publishers. Though I wasn’t the only one of a kind. There was a philosopher, Jos de Mul, reminding us that the invention of writing in the New Stone Age was just a way of outsourcing memory! And computers in the New New Stone Age (that’s now) are a way of outsourcing thinking…

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How to make your new book headline news

By Nicky Harman, October 4, '10

Jonathan Franzen's book Freedom suffers UK recall: More than 8,000 copies of the American author's latest opus have been recalled due to hundreds of typesetting errors. This has been headline news in the UK for the past two days. That's unheard-of for any novel except perhaps Harry Potter. Now how about this for a great way to launch one of those translations some of us are busy working on: ooops, it comes out only half-translated, or with an eye-catching English cover and all in Chinese inside?! OK, I was just joking. But then again........


Han Han …listed as a global figure

By Nicky Harman, September 28, '10

New Statesman, the British socialist weekly magazine, includes Han Han, writer, racing–driver and blogger, at number 48 in its list this week of 50 People who matter 2010. The rest are an eclectic group of the world’s great, the good and the not so good…About a quarter of them are women, only one of whom, Angela Merkel, is in the top ten. There’s one other Chinese, Xi Jinping, at number 4 (up from 10 last year).

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Mentoring scheme for literary translators hits the ground running

By Nicky Harman, August 17, '10

from Danny Hahn, Translators Association, London

For some time those of us at the (British) Translators Association have been discussing the possibility of setting up a mentoring scheme, as a way of allowing emerging translators to benefit from the experience of their more experienced colleagues. Mentoring does of course happen informally all the time – translators are a benign, helpful bunch on the whole, after all – but we wanted something more formal, something that the emerging translator could rely on for a set period of time, and which would also involve a modest fee to recognise the mentor’s time. And thanks to the generosity of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation we are delighted to have secured funds to make this happen at last.

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Eric Abrahamsen to translate Gongwuyuan Biji/Notes of a civil servant

By Nicky Harman, July 28, '10

It's been a good year for Chinese to English translation, and it's getting better. Eric Abrahamsen is to translate Wang Xiaofang's well-known novel on official corruption in China, working title Notes of a civil servant. The publisher is Penguin and the book is due out in 2011. Eric needs no introduction, since he is the founder and driving force behind Paper Republic. Great news, Eric!


Scatological humour in Zhu Wen and Han Dong

By Nicky Harman, June 2, '10

Pamela Hunt writes: Why are there so many modern Chinese novels in which, as Cindy Carter put it so nicely in an earlier post, ‘faeces play a starring role’? Any reader of contemporary Chinese fiction will tell you that you don’t have to look very far to find a joke about bodily functions. But at the same time humour is rarely discussed in academic writing on Chinese literature, let alone humour that centres around the toilet. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed a shame, which is why I decided to tackle the subject myself in a recent essay for the MA in Modern Chinese Literature at SOAS, University of London, focusing on the work of two authors much discussed on the pages of Paper Republic, Han Dong and Zhu Wen.

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Han Dong’s new novel: book launch Chengdu-style

By Nicky Harman, April 26, '10

It was a first for Hua Cheng publishers, for the author, and certainly for me – though perhaps not for the Bai Ye, a bar which hosts regular literary events in Chengdu’s Kuan Zhai Xiangzi district. This book launch provided non-stop entertainment for at least two hours in a packed space where people at the back carried on talking noisily regardless but the mike was so powerful that you could hear the speakers from the street. Han Dong's fourth novel was launched on 24 February 2010. Now called 《知青变形记》[Metamorphosis of an Educated Youth], it had the original, much ruder, working title 《日》(and at least one purchaser asked for “” to be inscribed above Han Dong’s signature!) An extract appears in translation on Paper Republic under the English title Screwed.

Anyway, titles notwithstanding, the evening was a great deal more fun that any book launch I’ve been to in London (normal format: speech from publisher, reading by author, and too much wine on an empty stomach). There was, true, the obligatory and slightly over-long speech by the publisher, followed by a reading by the author, but thereafter it all became much more lively. Han Dong gave an impromptu speech in which he said he turned to writing novels when he figured he would never write poetry as good as that of his favourite poets, Yu Xiaowei and Xiao An, so thought he had better try something different. The presenter interviewed him on stage about the book; there were also readings of some of Han Dong’s poems – some read in Chengdu dialect and other dialects/languages – and I read a few pages of my translation. A woman played the pi-pa, including a modern arrangement with a backing track that had at least some of the audience dancing, the 200 copies brought by Hua Cheng publishers sold out… and the beer flowed generously.

Hey, you book launch organisers! A model to follow for future events?

Han Dong signing copies of his new novel

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BCLT Translation Summer School with Yan Geling

By Nicky Harman, March 12, '10

The British Centre for Literary Translation is holding its Summer School 18-24 July 2010 and registration is now open. Bursaries are available for students translating from Chinese to English. Our resident author this year is Yan Geling, and I'll be leading the group. Here's the link: BCLT

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