London Book Fair Names Singapore’s Jeremy Tiang ‘Literary Translator of the Fair’

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Translation now has an official representative at the London Book Fair, with Jeremy Tiang as the first named to the honor.

Jeremy Tiang. Image: Oliver Rockwell, provided by Words Without Borders

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘In a Time of Increased Division’
If the name is ringing a bell, it may be that you’re recalling our August interview with Jeremy Tiang for his work as guest editor for Words Without Borders‘ focus on writings from Macau.

“Being from Singapore, a multilingual former colony,” Tiang told Publishing Perspectives, “I found certain elements of Macau hauntingly familiar, which perhaps gave me additional insight into the place. Yet Macau is very much in a class of its own, and I was glad to have the opportunity to explore it a little.”

Next month, Tiang will be exploring Olympia London, as the London Book Fair‘s first-designated “Literary Translator of the Fair.” He’ll be seen in conversation on March 14 (2:30 p.m., the Literary Translation Centre) with Chris Gribble, who leads Norwich’s National Centre for Writing. He’ll also join translator Daniel Hahn and others a day earlier, on March 13, in a 1 p.m. discussion of “What Can a Mentorship Do For You” in the Translation Centre.

Jacks Thomas

In her statement on the announcement today (February 5) of Tiang’s designation, fair director Jacks Thomas says, “We are thrilled to have Jeremy Tiang as our first ever Literary Translator this year.

“As well as being an award-winning translator, Jeremy is an accomplished author and playwright. London Book Fair has always championed translation and it has never been more important to celebrate the work of translators and their vital role in fostering cross-culture dialogue and bridging gaps across worlds.”

For his part, Tiang is quoted, saying, “Literary translation brings stories across borders and broadens our understanding of the world, which is more important than ever in a time of increased division. It’s wonderful to see translation being highlighted in this way, and I’m honored to fly the flag for translators everywhere.”

As Thomas points out, Tiang is an author in his own right, and as the Macau edition of Words Without Borders was introduced last summer, word arrived that his State of Emergency from Edmund Wee’s Epigram Books (2017) had  won the English fiction award in the biennial Singapore Literature Prize.

The novel is an ambitious story “about the leftist movements of Singapore and Malaysia,” as he puts it, following the experiences of a family making its way through the political currents from the 1940s to the present–the dynamics that have made these contemporary cultures what they are today.

“It looks at a segment of our past that I feel is neglected,” he says in video (below) about the work.

He’s also the author of It Never Rains on National Day (Epigram, 2016), a story collection that knits together lives in Canada, Thailand, Norway, Germany, China Switzerland, and China.

His playscripts include Salesman, The Last Days of Limehouse and A Dream of Red Pavilions, which is adapted from the novel by Cao Xueqin.

As a translator from Chinese, Tiang’s work on more than 10 books includes:

  •  The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei (Black Cat, 2017)
  • Pathological by Jinkang Wang (Amazon Crossing, 2016)
  • Unrest by Yeng Pway Ngon (Ballestier, 2017)
  • Death by Perfume by You Jin (Epigram, 2016)
  • Durians Are Not the Only Fruit: Notes From the Tropics by Wong Yoon Wah (Epigram, 2016)

He has also translated plays by Wei Yu-Chia, Zhan Jie, and Xu Nuo.

Tiang has been the recipient of a PEN/Heim Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship, and has won the People’s Literature Prize Mao-Tai-Cup for Translation.

At London Book Fair’s Literary Translation Centre 2019

At London Book Fair’s Literary Translation Centre 2018. Image: LBF

London Book Fair’s Literary Translation Centre this year is funded by Arts Council England and has the participation of Amazon Crossing, the translation imprint of Amazon Publishing; The British Council; English PEN; Literature Across Frontiers; the Translators Association; and Gribble’s National Centre.

Here’s a list of Translation Centre events scheduled during London Book Fair. You can surface full listings of them on the fair’s site here, and more about the Translation Centre program, itself, is here.

  • Translating Indonesia – with British Council’s Literature program manager Rebecca Hart (Tuesday, March 12, 10 a.m.)
  • World KidLit: Diversity in Publishing Children’s Books – with the director of Literature Across Frontiers,  Alexandra Buchler (Tuesday, March 12, 11.30 a.m.)
  • Challenging the Status Quo: Emerging Scottish Publishers as Platforms for Diverse Voices – featuring Alan Bett, literature officer at Creative Scotland (Tuesday March 12, 1:30 p.m.)
  • Promoting Translations in a Digital World – with translator Daniel Hahn, The Feminist Press’ Lauren Rosemary Hook, The Starling Bureau’s Roland Glasser, Litro Magazine’s Erik Akogo, and moderation by Publishing Perspectives (Tuesday, March 12, 2:30 p.m.)
  • The Impact of Prizes on Translations and Translators – with Rush Martin, co-chair of the Translators Association (Wednesday, March 13, 10 a.m.)
  • A Different Window onto the World: Indigenous Language Literature, Identity and Translation in Scotland, Wales and Europe – featuring Literature Wales (Wednesday, March 13, 11:30 a.m.)
  • What Can a Mentorship Do For You? – with Chris Gribble and Kate Griffin from the National Centre for Writing (Wednesday, March 13, 1 p.m.)
  • Dark Political Questions in Translated Literature: Demian Vitanza in Conversation with Porter Anderson –with Amazon Crossing’s Elizabeth DeNoma (Wednesday, March 13, 2:15 p.m.)
  • The Maltese Literary Scene: Exporting an Emerging Literature Despite Translation Challenges – with Antonella and Simona Cassano (Wednesday, March 13, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Freedom of Movement & Artistic Expression: Writers Abroad – featuring English PEN’s Theadora Danek (Thursday, March 14, 10 a.m.)
  • Women in Literature & Translation: Realities & Stereotypes – with the Boris Yeltsin Foundation (Thursday, March 14, 11:30 a.m.)
  • In conversation: Jeremy Tiang, Literary Translator of the Fair and Chris Gribble – (Thursday, March 14, 2:30 p.m.)

Below is a book trailer for Tiang’s novel State of Emergency, in which he discusses the work and the political underpinnings of his book’s clash of cultural values that go into the fabric of Singapore.

“Without knowing where we came from and how we got here,” he says, “how can we possibly know where we are?”


More from Publishing Perspectives on the London Book Fair is here, and more from us on translation is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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