NEW AND NEWER VOICES
Chinese authors make their presence felt at one of the world’s largest book fairs, Mei Jia reports in Frankfurt.
Western readers havegreatexpectations of Chinese authors, according to veteranSinologist Michael Kahn-Ackermann.
“They’re supposed to represent their society, culture, history and the whole country,” he said at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, which concluded on Sunday. The fair opened on Oct 18.
A section of the fair dedicated to “new voices from China” saw many Chinese writers participate in a wide range of discussions.
Yu Yishuang, a Beijingbased author, is among those who spoke. So far, the 32-yearold writer has published two books of short stories set in Beijing.
And while she was introduced toaninternational audience in Frankfurt, Yu said she mostly cares about one thing when writing: “If the stories are well written or not.”
Her candid writing about her experiences in Chinese cities and failed relationships seem to have got her invited to the fair.
Another invitee to the fair was Shanghai-based Lu Nei, 43. He is among Chinese authors who write about small towns.
Lu, whose first novel Young Babylon was published in English in 2015, said he writes about “the memories of my generation— of loneliness and life’s absurdities”.
At the fair, he told his audience a story about his father’s obsession with Tango, and how he hid his fondness for the South American dance during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) and volunteered Liu Cixin, to teach others on the streets of Suzhou, a city in eastern China, for six years before the first dance venue appeared there in 1986.
Jing Barts, a publishing and cultural consultant, said Chinese authors received a lot of attention in Frankfurt from publishers and the media in Britain and Latin America.
Hosting Chinese authors was among some 4,000 events that the fair held this year.
As one of the world’s biggest annual literary gatherings, the fair attracted 7,100 exhibitors from more than 100 countries, and 277,000 commercial and private visitors, a press statement from the fair’s organizers said.
In 2009, China was selected the guest country and took the largest delegation to the fair, comprising more than 1,000 publishing professionals and 100 writers. Since then, foreign publishers and readers seem to have shown greater interest inChinese books. This year, the Chinese delegation had 150 members. Chinese books such as Keywords to Understand China by New World Press were also launched at the fair.
Besides Yu and Lu, the Confucius Institute got writers such as Liu Cixin, Yan Lianke, poetWang Xiaoni and illustratorXiong Liang to go to Frankfurt.
Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem that sold 160,000 copies in English since being printed will be released in German soon. It is the first book of his famous trilogy to be published in the language.
Liu told his audience at the fair that he was seeking connections between the infinite universe and people. In true form, he went: “If we invite all human beings to a concert, the Pudong area in Shanghai would be enough to contain them; and if we turned all humans into a meat ball, the diameter of the ball would be nolongerthanninekilometers.
“What I’m doing is offering fantasies,” he added.
The Confucius Institute also held an exhibition on children’s picture books from China at the fair.
Jing Wei, its deputy chief executive, while introducing the exhibition said: “We have such a diversity of picture books in China. They tell the audience about how we cope with nature, and where we are from and are going (to).”
Russian publisher Maxim Lozovskiy with Eksmo AST Publishing, whose task at the fair was to follow the latest trends in global publishing, found the speeches by two representatives from China’s publishing industry interesting. One was by Gong Shuguang, chairman of Hunan Publishing Investment Holding Group, and the other by Ma Minghui from the Educational Science PublishingHouse.
Ma was among six “young talents” at this year’s Frankfurt fair.
Gong said Chinese publishers shouldn’t be content with the huge domestic book market. And to show effort in that direction, the China International Publishing Group held a seminar on the fair, where it invited experts from Europe to give advice on their published titles that are aimed at the global market.
According to Susanne Barwick, who is with the German Publishers& BooksellersAssociation, Germany has a book market worth 9.2 billion euros ($10.01 billion), while China has one of 18 billion euros.
“China is the country that buys the most copyrights of German titles,” Barwick said, adding that Germany buys most from English-speaking countries, followed by France and Japan.
Renate Reichstein, a former president of the Association of German Children’s Book Publishers, agreed there’s a huge gap between Chinese reading German books and vice versa.
Around 25 percent of the newtitles published inGermany are translated, and China may rank between20and25 in German copyright intakes. Further, up to 0.3 percent of its overall new titles originate in China.
“German publishers and readers should look east,” Reichstein says of Chinese children’s books.
German publisher Reclam’s release of a full translation of Journey to the West by Eva Ludi Kong at the fair showed the continued interest in Chinese classics.
Though this year the Chinese presence was larger than the previous two or three, the fair’s organizers like vice-president Holger Volland said he hoped to see more Chinese writers in the future.
who attended an event in Beijing last month, shows up at the Frankfurt Book Fair with a German version of Three-Body Problem that will be released soon. visitors.
This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany attracts 7,100 exhibitors from more than 100 countries, and 277,000 commercial and private