While Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings exert great influence on Chinese readers, modern Chinese literary works have seen a prolonged slump in the global market.
"Last year, while in Japan, I was disappointed to find there was little Chinese literature on the country's bookshelves," said Bai Ye, literary researcher and critic from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Bai made the remark at a Publication Brainstorm of Chinese Literature on August 31, part of the Beijing International Book Fair, which started a few days ago.
"You know the works of Annie Baby's, which have been introduced overseas in recent years, can hardly represent China's modern literary standard," said Bai. Annie Baby is the penname of a female Chinese author whose melancholy love stories feature a lot of sexually explicit content.
Nie Zhenning, president of the China Publishing Group, echoed Bai's viewpoint: "The publishing industry in China is lacking talented brokers who are competent in promoting the right literary works across the world," said Nie. China publishes 1,000 works of literary fiction every year, which poses a challenge for brokers who must make careful choices about the books they push.
Yet the training of qualified book agents takes time. Pan Kaixiong, vice president of People’s Literature Publishing House, said: "It takes years to train professional book brokers nationwide. They need to have a clear picture of the country’s literary development as well as a sound knowledge of copyright trading."
Although Chinese literature remains rare in the world market, overseas publishers are showing increased interest in Chinese works, according to Toby Eady, president of Toby Eady Associates Ltd, who entered China’s book market 25 yeas ago.
The problem for the promotion of Chinese literature lies in the communication between different languages, and western readers won’t read bad translations, according to Eady.
But Pan said translation is not a problem that can simply be solved by languages. "Translation is not only a change of languages but also the change of culture and logic. China is badly in need of professional literary translators who are expert in both Chinese and foreign cultures."
"But we need to train publishing brokers first," Nie argued. "The country has a lot of translators who need brokers to expand the literary market so that they may secure their jobs."
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wu Jin, August 31, 2007)