NEW AND NEWER VOICES

Chi­nese au­thors make their pres­ence felt at one of the world’s largest book fairs, Mei Jia re­ports in Frankfurt.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE BOOKS - Con­tact the writer at mei­jia@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

KAI PFAF­FEN­BACH / REUTERS

This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in Ger­many at­tracts 7,100 ex­hibitors from more than 100 coun­tries, and 277,000 com­mer­cial and pri­vate

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