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Shanghai recognises UK translator Wang’s ‘special contribution’ to literature

Helen Wang, a London-based literary translator and British Museum curator has been recognised on the international stage for her “special contribution” to children’s literature at the 2017 Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Awards in Shanghai.

Wang, who translates contemporary Chinese literature, including novels, picture books and graphic novels for children and young adults, was commended as “a tireless champion” for Chinese children’s literature at the event, which named her Special Contributor of the Year on the eve of the city’s fifth international children’s book fair.

Wang earlier this year took home the 2017 Marsh Christian Award for her translation of Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, set in the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution, that was originally published by Phoenix Publishing House and published in translation by Walker in the UK and Candlewick in the US.

In addition to her translations, Wang has also worked collaboratively with the China Fiction Book Club, Paper Republic and Global Literature in Libraries. In 2016, she co-founded Chinese Books for Young Readers, a resource collating scant reliable information about Chinese children’s books.

“Helen Wang is a tireless champion for Chinese children’s literature. And her advocacy is widely recognised and appreciated,” said Junko Tokota, one of the judging panel.

She added: “Although her name is synonymous with children’s translation, Helen Wang has raised the visibility and professionalism of children’s literature translation worldwide.”

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Louis Cha’s acclaimed trilogy to be translated into English

Despite their popularity, only three of Jin Yong’s martial arts novels have been translated into English. But fans will soon get more from the writer as his most popular trilogy, named after the first of the three books, Legends of the Condor Heroes, is scheduled to hit bookstores in February.

Jin Yong is the pen name of Louis Cha. And the author, who lives in Hong Kong, is one of the best-selling Chinese authors alive with over 300 million copies of his works sold in the Chinese-speaking world.

This latest translation project is the most ambitious with regard to Jin Yong’s works.

The trilogy, written by Jin Yong in the 1950s and ’60s, covers the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and features hundreds of characters.

The plot includes betrayal and allegiance among different martial arts schools, and the rise and fall of dynasties.

According to the publishing house, Maclehose Press, the translated work will come in 12 volumes, including Legends of the Condor Heroes; Divine Condor, Errant Knight; and Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre.

Anna Holmwood is the translator of volume one, A Hero Born.

Speaking of the project which she took up in 2012, Holmwood, a self-employed translator focusing on Chinese-English literary translations, says in an email interview: “It had to be Jin Yong then. It was the obvious place to start, not only because of the quality of his writing, but also because of his standing and reputation in Asia.”

Holmwood, who was born to a British father and a Swedish mother, grew up in the United Kingdom and studied history at the University of Oxford.

Her love affair with China began in 2005, when she spent two months traveling around the country on a scholarship.

The trip aroused her curiosity about China, and she was determined to learn Chinese. “That was the only way to satisfy my curiosity about the country,” she says.

Holmwood then chose modern Chinese studies as her MPhil major at Oxford, and went to Taiwan Normal University for a year of language training in 2009.

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China Reinvents Literature (Profitably)

Smartphones may be killing print in China, but they’re revolutionizing literature. Last year, 333 million Chinese read fiction written for their phones and other devices, according to government data. Some is written by hobbyists and some by professionals. Increasingly, though, it’s hard to tell the difference, as China’s “online literature” morphs into a $1.3 billion industry.

Investors have taken note. On Wednesday, China Literature Ltd., the country’s biggestonline publisher, will go public in Hong Kong, with a market value expected to exceed $6 billion. Its success should put the rest of the publishing industry on notice that the future of the book is being written in China — and it looks nothing like the past.

For decades, China’s publishing industry was dominated by government-owned companies that steered clear of subject matter that might cause controversy. Politics was just the most obvious topic. But sex, romance and violence — the stuff of so much popular entertainment — were also generally discouraged. Good books still managed to get published, but formal and informal restrictions severely inhibited creative expression.

Then the internet offered a back channel. In the late 1990s, authors began posting serialized novels to online forums and bulletin boards. It was an informal and largely uncensored way to publish, and some of the early books — especially romances — became sensations. Among other factors turning these early serials into hits were the online forums themselves. They were the social media of their time, and parallel commentaries and discussions organically sprung up around this new literature, becoming as much a part of the experience of reading as the story itself. In many cases, these commentaries influenced how the authors wrote, and thereby drew in even more readers eager to be a part of the story-making process.

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The Legacy and Works of Lu Xun — The Father of Modern Chinese Literature

Lu Xun (鲁迅) was the pen name of Zhou Shuren (周树人), one of China’s most famous fiction authors, poets, and essayists. He is considered by many to be the father of modern Chinese literature because he was the first serious author to write using modern colloquial language.

Lu Xun died on October 19, 1936, but his works have remained prominent over the years in Chinese culture.

NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE

Widely recognized as one of China’s best and most influential authors, Lu Xun remains strikingly relevant to modern China.

His socially-critical work is still widely read and discussed in China and references to his stories, characters, and essays abound in everyday speech as well as academia.

Many Chinese people can quote from several of his stories verbatim, as they are still taught as part of China’s national curriculum. His work also continues to influence modern Chinese authors and writers around the world. Nobel-prize-winning author Kenzaburō Ōe reportedly called him “the greatest writer Asia produced in the twentieth century.”

IMPACT ON THE COMMUNIST PARTY

Lu Xun’s work has been embraced and to a certain extent co-opted by China’s Communist Party. Mao Zedong held him in very high esteem, although Mao also worked hard to prevent people from taking Lu Xun’s sharp-tongued critical approach when it came to writing about the Party.

Lu Xun himself died well before the communist revolution and it’s difficult to say what he would have thought of it.

EARLY LIFE

Born on September 25, 1881, in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, Lu Xun was born into a wealthy and well-educated family. However, his grandfather was caught and nearly executed for bribery when Lu Xun was still a child, which sent his family tumbling down the social ladder. This fall from grace and the way once-friendly neighbors treated his family after they had lost their status had a profound effect on the young Lu Xun.

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Chinese sci-fi novelist first Asian to win prestigious book award

Chinese sci-fi title The Three-Body Problem was first serialized in Science Fiction World magazine in 2006 and then published as a book in 2008. It was eventually translated into English and it became a literary phenomenon, winning the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015.

Even former US President Barack Obama is a fan. He told The New York Times while still in office: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty – not something to worry about.”

Its author, Liu Cixin, 53, is as surprised as anyone by its success. He says in Mandarin over the telephone from Beijing: “Sci-fi novels usually have a shorter shelf-life because they tend to be overtaken by scientific developments.

It’s been more than a decade since it was first published and for it to continue to have such an impact is something my publishers and I never expected.”

In The Three-Body Problem (Tor Books, 2007), readers first encounter the Trisolaran world, an unstable stellar system with three suns. The sequel, The Dark Forest (Tor Books), published in English in 2015, details how Earth deals with a Trisolaran invasion coming in 400 years’ time.

In the concluding installment, Death’s End (Tor Books), published in English last year, the two civilizations coexist peacefully at first, but before long, humanity is once again faced with the threat of annihilation. Death’s End is up for Best Novel at the 2017 Hugo Awards, which will be presented in August.

Collectively, the trilogy is known as Remembrance Of Earth’s Past (Tor Books).

Liu adds wryly, though, that the attention lavished on The Three-Body Problem has not been a tide that lifts all boats.

For example, with regard to his translated book of short stories, The Wandering Earth (Beijing Guomi Digital Technology Co, 2012) he says: “There’s been not much impact, it’s like throwing a stone into a pond.”

Still, he can be justifiably proud of what he has achieved so far.


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Lu Xun: What is Revolutionary Literature

“Only when revolutionaries start writing will there be revolutionary literature.”

Editor’s Note: A speech by the Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881-1936) delivered in 1927 at the Whampoa Military Academy (re-presented in lithub.com). Known for his short stories and trenchant essays, Lu Xun is considered to be one of China’s greatest modern writers. In 1926, he had to flee the country after protesting against the killing of some students in a demonstration. What he says in this speech from his book Jottings Under Lamplight (HUP) is as applicable to nations and regimes today as it was in the early 20th century.

……

I thought: Literature, oh literature, you are a most useless thing. Only those without power talk about you; no one with real strength bothers to talk, they just murder people. Oppressed people who say a few things or write a few words will be killed. Even if they are fortunate enough not to be killed, and shout out, complain of their suffering, and cry out against injustices every day, those with real strength will still continue to oppress, abuse, and kill; there is no way to deal with them. What value does this literature have for people, then?

The natural world also works this way. When a hawk hunts a sparrow, it is the hawk that is silent while the sparrow squawks. When a cat preys on a mouse, it is the cat that is silent while the mouse squeals. The result is still that those who cry out are eaten by those who remain silent. If a writer does well and writes a few essays, he might garner some fame for himself in his time or earn a reputation for a few years. This is like how after a memorial service, no one mentions the feats of the martyr; rather, everyone discusses whose elegiac couplets are best. What a stable business this is.

However, I’m afraid that the literary specialists in this revolutionary place are always fond of saying how close the connection between literature and revolution is. For example, they say literature can be used to publicize, promote, incite, and advance the revolutionary cause, and thus bring about revolution. Still, it seems to me that this sort of literature has no strength because good literature has never been about following orders and has no regard for its effects. It is something that flows naturally from the heart. If we write literature according to a pre-selected topic, how is that any different from the formal prose of an imperial examination? It has no value as literature, not to mention no ability to move people.

For revolution to occur, what is needed are revolutionaries; there is no need to be overly anxious about “revolutionary literature.”

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