A read-letter day for China's publishing industry abroad

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, October 20, 2009
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Huang Youyi seems a contented man.

The China International Publishing Group (CIPG) vice-president, who visited Frankfurt last week to showcase the Foreign Language Press' (FLP) astonishing range of offerings - from avant-garde literature to compendiums of traditional Chinese medicine - feels the focus on China at the international book event was well executed.

"The series of forums and dialogues the Chinese delegation staged went beyond publishing itself. It was a Chinese cultural show," he says.

Chinese and mainstream global publishers like Penguin pushed hard to promote writings from China, from classical favorites like Lu Xun (1881-1936) to the works of 1980s-born writers like Zhang Yueran.

The 21st Century Literature Series, an elegant eight-volume anthology of fiction penned by representative Chinese authors over the present decade, expectedly had the pride of place at Frankfurt.

"The series, the only one of its kind to include so many contemporary Chinese writers' works translated into English, has won a lot of attention from other countries' publishers," Huang says.

"We spent two years putting the series together," FLP's associate-editor-in-chief Hu Kaimin says. "The focus was on getting the authors who were active, influential and famous. We also wanted to include young writers in a big way."

Hu says that moving in sync with the times has nothing to do with age. For example, he says, the writer Fang Fang, who began writing in 1975, can speak to present-day audiences with as much gusto as any of the anthology's 1980s-born authors, such as Li Sasha and Yan Ge.

He is particularly optimistic about the volume containing stories by women writers. He says it marks the transition from the sensitive, emotional and passionate writing often picked up by readers for shock value in the 1970s and 80s, to a more mature understanding of life and society in a more inclusive present-day China.

If there's a strand unifying the series' eight volumes, it's the theme of an ancient civilization in the throes of change.

"It's about a transformation that's new and happening too quickly," FLP English consultant May Yee says. "A lot of the themes here are very new to the Chinese experience."

Around 40 titles from the immensely popular Panda Series, covering modern Chinese literature from Lu Xun to the controversial 1990s writer Jia Pingwa, was reissued by FLP on the eve of the Frankfurt event. The pricing was kept at an affordable US $8 a title.

The lavishly mounted From Oracle Bones to E Publications: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Publishing has attracted potential copyright buyers.

"It is the first authoritative book on the history and present status of publishing in China," Huang says.

"It also goes into the prospect of e-publishing, which is an everyday discussion point among international publishers. We had a lot of questions concerning the acquisition of publishing rights in other countries."

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