German Literature is Hot in Taiwan

In News by Dennis Abrams

German literature has found surprising success in Taiwan, where several titles have become bestsellers and publishers are adding German-speaking editors.

By Dennis Abrams

Frank Schätzing’s "Der Schwarm" translated into Chinese has hit the bestseller list in Taiwan.

Frank Schätzing’s “Der Schwarm” translated into Chinese has hit the bestseller list in Taiwan.

Writing for dw.de, Holger Hermann notes the “enormous interest in Western literature in Asia — namely, in Taiwan, where 25 percent of the nearly 40,000 new books published each year are translation. And, while “most of them are from English . . . books translated from German are on the rise.”

Hermann quotes translator Wei Tang, who sees the openness towards cultures and languages in Taiwan as “self-evident.” “We are living on a small island, that’s why we are interested in what’s happening in the whole world. There is a yearning for everything that’s foreign.”

The article reports that Tang is one of the “most significant mediators of German literature in Taiwan, traveling back and forth between Berlin and Taipei: raising interest in Taiwanese literature in Germany (where she accompanied Taiwanese writers to the Literary Colloquium Berlin and the Leipzig Book Fair), and raising awareness of German literature in Taiwan – a decidedly easier task.

There are several publishing houses in Taiwan that have had success with German literature – Frank Schätzing’s Der Schwarm (The Swarm) and Ferdinand von Schirach’s short story collection Verbrechen (“Crimes”) have become bestsellers.

Rex How, editor of Locus Publishing, told Hermann that, “In most countries, books written by native authors sell better than those translated from foreign languages. But in Taiwan, the reverse holds true.”

Business Weekly is the main publisher for German translations, including books by Daniel Kehlmann, Arno Geiger, and Elfriede Jelinek. Chief editor Feng Yi Cheng, attributes “growing linguistic competence” for the growing number of translations being published:

“When I started out at Business Weekly 15 years ago, we published a translation from Germany only once every two years. By now, we publish three to five such works every year. Whereas we had only two German speaking editors before, we now have four.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.