Wanted: a few good decoders

By Liu Zhihua ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-09-03 07:26:16

Wanted: a few good decoders

Beijing Book fair establishes record as exports rise 

Wanted: a few good decoders

21th Beijing Int'l Book Fair kicks off 

Wanted: a few good decoders

New page turner 

When Xie Shanqing, vice-president of the Nanjing-based Yilin Press, asked a famous Sinologist to translate the literary works of established Chinese writer Ye Zhaoyan, the Sinologist said Xie would need to wait two years.

Xie, who is also the publishing house's director of international cooperation, was not surprised. She said the shortage of good translators is one of the reasons why Chinese literature hasn't fully reached its potential on the world stage.

"Translation of literature works is very difficult, because translators need to master at least two languages to get over the obstacles from cultural gaps and language differences," Xie says. "High-end translators who are able to translate Chinese literary works into a foreign language successfully are now mostly Sinologists, and they are often very busy with academic and translating work."

Another issue is the lack of professional overseas marketing for Chinese literature, Xie adds. Also, many of today's readers tend to choose popular fiction over literary works, and cultural differences make it hard for foreigners to understand and appreciate a book that has been translated from Chinese, Xie adds.

Yilin Press plans to publish and globally distribute works of famous writers from Jiangsu province, including Ye Zhaoyan and Su Tong. Xie says the publishing house feels obligated to promote Chinese literature to the world, regardless of how well the books sell.

To ensure that Chinese literature reaches a wider audience, Xie suggests the government put a greater emphasis on cultivating and attracting high quality translators.

Li Hongjie, president of the China Intercontinental Press, says: "The most important thing to make Chinese literature popular in the world is to select the right works to export."

Chinese contemporary literature is insightful, but many of the works are about local issues, and are sometimes hard for foreigners to understand, Li says.

Li uses Mai Jia's novel Decoded as an example. The first volume of the Spanish version of the book sold around 30,000 copies, a record for Chinese writers publishing a book abroad. Li says the book tells a great story about humanity and fate that appeals to everyone, Chinese and foreigners, and that is what made it a success.

"It is time we change our strategy when exporting books," Li says. "We cannot export whatever copyrights and books we want to, but we need to export works that foreigners would be interested in."


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