Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event, lists among his favorite books Outlaws of the Marsh, one of China's "four classic novels."
"Personally speaking, I love Chinese classical literature, and my favorite is Outlaws of the Marsh. Each time I re-read the book, I understand more about China," Boos said in an interview with the Shenzhen Business Daily.
The Frankfurt Book Fair takes place annually in mid-October and every year a different country is chosen as Guest of Honor. This October, for the first time, China has been named the special guest.
"The publishing industry in China is developing rapidly. There are outstanding works published every year. We hope the fair will help Chinese books attract a wider range of readers," Boos told Shenzhen Business Daily while at the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) which closed on September 7.
China has long hoped to expand its overseas book sales, but its attempts to do so have so far turned out disappointing. Domestic bestsellers, such as Confucius from the Heart by Yu Dan, Yi Zhongtian's Commentary on the Three Kingdoms, and even the thrilling Wolf Totem by Chen Zhen, receive much less attention when put on overseas bookshelves.
Paul Richardson, an international publishing consultant and chairman of China Publishing Ltd, attributes the poor sales to cultural barriers between China and the West. In the case of Wolf Totem, Richardson said westerners were puzzled by the description of growing up in the book and found the plot confusing. He added that Chinese publishers and authors need to do more detailed market research overseas.
Although people overseas are learning more about China through travel and the Internet, they have few chances to experience the inner life of the country as expressed in its literature.
"We get most of our knowledge about China from television. But this gives us mainly economic and political news and very little cultural material," said Boos. According to Boos, most foreigners want to know more about the lives of ordinary Chinese people. "German readers were recently captivated by a book about a Chinese person who cycled around Beijing talking to people on the way."
China will exhibit 300 translated works at the Frankfurt Book Fair and 100 Chinese authors have been invited to participate in the event. The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest and oldest publishing event in the world and was first held more than 500 years ago shortly after Johannes Gutenberg invented printing using movable type in the town of Mainz near Frankfurt.
(China.org.cn by Wu Jin, September 14, 2009)