Experts discuss trends in overseas Chinese literature translation and publishing

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/22 17:48:39

Foreign translators attend the opening ceremony of the 2017 Sino-Foreign Literature Translation & Publishing Workshop in Beijing Monday. Photo: Courtesy of the Chinese Culture Translation and Studies Support Network

A Beijing bookstore showcases the English version of Chinese writer Mo Yan's works. Photo: CFP

Chinese literature translation is embracing new opportunities thanks to increased international exchanges taking place in recent years, although there remain some barriers standing in the way, said experts at an academic event in Beijing Monday.

Co-hosted by China's Ministry of Culture, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) and the China Writers Association, the 2017 Sino-Foreign Literature Translation & Publishing Workshop brought together more than 40 foreign publishing industry insiders, Chinese literature scholars and translators from more than 30 countries and regions including Britain, Canada, Poland, Romania and Serbia to share their experiences and discuss current trends in overseas Chinese literature translation and publishing.

"The number of Chinese exports and imports of book copyrights has reached an average of 25,000 annually and we have signed deals with more than 50 countries to translate each other's classic works of literature," said Zhao Haiyun, deputy director of SAPPRFT's Bureau for Import Management, at the event.

Challenges and opportunities

In recent years, domestic efforts to translate Chinese works into foreign languages have outnumbered the number of translations of works into Chinese. According to Huang Youyi, executive vice president of the Translators Association of China, translation of Chinese works currently accounts for 60 percent of translations coming in and out of China.

Moreover, experts pointed out that increased support from the Chinese government and closer international connections within the industry resulting from the Belt and Road initiative are providing a new round of opportunities to export Chinese literature.

However, a lack of trained individuals, poor quality translations, and inefficient marketing strategies are some of most prominent problems inhibiting the sector, experts at the event pointed out.

"The biggest problem we are facing [in Chinese-Albanian literature translation] is a lack of qualified translators, especially young ones," Iljaz Spahiu, an Albanian translator and also president of the Albania-China Culture Association, told the audience in a speech.

"Meanwhile, veteran translators, including ourselves, should keep studying Chinese culture and try to overcome cultural barriers in translation," he said.

"Due to language and cultural barriers, foreign publishers have difficulty evaluating Chinese literature works' potential for success in overseas markets," Zhao said, sharing his experience speaking with foreign editors not long ago. Overseas Chinese literature publishing is far more underdeveloped compared to publication of foreign materials in China, he said.

Experts at the event agreed that more professional training, better communication within the industry and increased overseas cooperation will be needed to improve the current situation.

Despite current barriers, a number of Sino-foreign literature translation and publishing projects are taking off.

Svetlana Anikeeva, director of Russia's Vostochnaya Literatura Publisher, told the Global Times at the event that her publishing house is currently participating in Sino-Russian publishing programs for classic and contemporary Chinese literature works.

"We plan to publish about 50 Chinese books and 50 Russian books," she said. "Right now we have already published 10 Chinese books [in Russian], including works from Chinese novelists Lao She and Wang Meng."

Overseas popularity

Other award-winning modern Chinese writers such as Mo Yan and Yu Hua were also among the most frequently mentioned names by veteran foreign translators present at the event.

"Works of Mo and Yu are quite popular in Egypt as well as Cell Phone and I Am Not Pan Jinlian by Chinese writer Liu Zhenyun," Mira Ahmed, a Chinese-Arabic translator from Egypt, told the Global Times at the event.

Moreover, Bi Feiyu, the 50-something Chinese writer known for his novel Massage, was another popular name. While Ahmed was talking to the Global Times about how she translated Bi's novels into Arabic, Mexican translator Adriana Martínez González weighed in saying she has also translated Bi's works into Spanish, focusing on his essays.

While Chinese literature works, especially contemporary novels, have been gaining popularity globally, they may still seem strange to readers in some parts of the world.

"In Finland, even though there are a certain number of Chinese literature lovers, compared to Chinese literature, Chinese films are more popular," said Pertti Seppälä, a 66-year-old Finnish sinologist and translator specializing in translating both ancient and contemporary Chinese poems into Finnish.

Moreover, due to the size of Finland - home to around 6 million people - there are only around five professional Chinese-Finnish literature translators in the country today, he noted.

"But with the increased number of exchanges between the two countries, Finnish readers' interest in Chinese literature is definitely growing," Seppälä told the Global Times.

Newspaper headline: Literary links


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