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Translator thrilled to bring Jin Yong's martial arts works to Western audience

By Mei Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-19 08:44
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Names are not the only challenges. She told China Daily - after speaking at the StoryDrive conference audience in Beijing in early June - that when she feels the flow of describing the movements of the martial arts heroes as a problem, she'd watch films and TV shows, or read fight scenes in The Three Musketeers to get inspiration.

Making comparisons is also a frequent strategy Holmwood employs to sell English-language publishers and readers on the books, "because it's easier to explain if you can point to a similar book that's already successful in a similar genre", she says.

She "apologizes" for comparing Jin Yong's novel to The Lord of Rings.

"The wuxia novels are a genre unique to China and they have flourished for many years. However, they are not totally unfamiliar to the West. We have epic historical fantasies, and something similar," she observes, adding that wuxia films have already done the job of introducing elements of the genre to the Western public.

Holmwood was born to a British father and a Swedish mother in 1984 and educated at Oxford. She now lives in Malmo, Sweden, with her husband and son.

She started learning Chinese in 2006 after a trip where she developed a strong interest in the country. She launched her career as a translator of Chinese literature after gaining recognition from a veteran in the field, Nicky Harman.

Her work includes translations of Ai Mi's Love under the Hawthorn Tree and A Yi's A Perfect Crime, as well as a number of short stories.

Her experience as literary agent has helped her sales pitches and text samples.

She calls herself "a clumsy student, reminiscent of Guo Jing (the Condor Heroes protagonist), perhaps, but one of loyal heart and unerring enthusiasm".

She started translating Jin Yong in 2012, spending extra time trying to figure out.

"How was I going to approach this, and what kind of narrative voice, tone and what register I was going to apply? How did I imagine Jin Yong's words would look in English?"

Then, she found Christopher MacLehose, the eponymous head of the UK publishing house that brought the books to print. He called Holmwood to insist that he had to be the one to publish the Jin Yong books as he could not bear to see the series go to anyone else.

MacLehose's other literary coups include securing the rights to Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's best-seller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for the British market.

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