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Pushing the Borders of Chinese Literature
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The 14th Beijing International Book Fair marked a new chapter in the popularity of Chinese literature abroad.

"Books about Chinese culture have always been popular in South Korea," says Choi Jei-Chirl, head of Shinwon Agency from the country.

Choi has introduced hundreds of Chinese books to readers in South Korea over the past few years.

"Apart from literature, biographies, such as the ones about late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, are also welcomed by readers in my country," says the agent, who also revealed that his company has inked a couple of new deals at the book fair with Chinese publishers.

Penguin, the world's leading book publisher, took the fair as an opportunity to announce that the English-language edition of Jiang Rong's novel Wolf Totem (Lang Tuteng) is scheduled to hit bookshelves in most English-speaking countries and regions in March 2008.

The publishing giant bought the overseas rights to the book from the Changjiang Literature and Arts Publishing House, which is based in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province.

A best-selling work in China - with at least 2 million copies sold over the past three years - Wolf Totem reportedly enchanted Italian readers when it was released in the Italian language late last year. At least 40,000 copies have been sold in Italy so far, says Peter Field, chairman of Penguin Asia.

Field hopes the English edition will also be such a great success. "The translation is very important for the success of this book outside China," says Field.

In order to ensure nothing was lost in translation, the company invited Howard Goldblatt, who is perhaps the most prolific and best-known translator of Chinese literature into English, to take on the job.

It took Goldblatt at least 18 months to complete the task, says Field, who says the English edition is still going through the editing process.

"Wolf Totem is a wonderful book - very different from many other Chinese novels. Besides the unique narrative style, it interests me because of its strong flavor of Mongolian culture. And I believe other Western readers will also find it interesting to read," explains general manager of Penguin China Jo Lusby, who can speak and read Chinese.

Over the years, Penguin has introduced to English-language readers several contemporary Chinese novels, including Fortress Besieged (Weicheng) by Qian Zhongshu, Rice (Mi) by Su Tong, Red Sorghum (Hong Gaoliang) by Mo Yan and Beijing Doll (Beijing Wawa) by Chun Shu.

Many children's books and Chinese classics tailored for readers in segmented markets are also found on the long list, Lusby says.

(China Daily September 4, 2007)


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