On Introducing Chinese Literature to an International Audience

In News by Dennis Abrams

Chinese cultural officials are working with Amazon and OverDrive to produce a new introductory guide to Chinese literature for the international audience.

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

‘We’ve Just Taken Our First Step’
At the Global Times, Zhang Yuchen reports on a recent forum about translation and on the launch of China’s first guide that introduces Chinese literature to readers, both at home and abroad.

Zhang writes that the Forum on Overseas Translation and Communication of Famous Works of Contemporary Chinese Literature was organized by Chinese Culture Translation and Studies Support (CCTSS), an online platform dedicated to promoting Chinese literature and culture overseas. Work, according to Zhang, began last June on a Guide to Famous Works of Contemporary Chinese Literature.

During the selection process, CCTSS is reported to have worked with 29 editors of Chinese literary magazines, along with 40 university-based literary critics to select 192 novels from among the 651 candidates for introduction to international readers. Twenty translators were hired to translate the works into English.

The first volume of the magazine is expected to contain introductions to more than 40 works, including Zhou Dazin’s The Light of Lake and the Color of the Mountain and Lu Min’s Song of Farewell.

As quoted in Zhang’s article, CCTSS director Huang Zhuoyue says, “Since the beginning of this century, Chinese literature has played a passive role in the international literary world. We focused too much attention on increasing domestic influence but neglected the spread of Chinese literature overseas. This has caused many foreign readers to have a mistaken impression of China, since they had few works to read through which they could get to know the country.”

Each introduction in the guide will include an author profile, synopsis, and review.

The executive director of CCTSS, Xu Baofeng, tells Zhang for the Global Times that both a Chinese and English version of the guide is to be published. The Chinese version will be published in China, but for the English version, Xu says they’re working with Amazon to publish the print version of the guide and cooperating with distributor OverDrive to bring the publication to libraries around the world.

The president of the China Modern Literature Association, Bai Ye, says that there are nearly 2 million Chinese titles available. “Among them, there are many worth introducing abroad. Now we’ve just taken our first step in doing so.”

A second volume is already in the works, with plans to include works of online literature, as Xu is quoted saying, referring to the Asian form of self-publishing called “online literature”: “Online literature has grown into a force you can’t ignore,” he says, “even though many people won’t admit that it’s literature. But the discussion about online writers and their impact overseas is inevitable when we talk about modern Chinese literature.”

Zhang Yuchen’s full article at the Global Times is here.

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.