On Monday, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction was awarded to Jack Livings for The Dog, a collection set in China in the last decades of the 20th century. What makes Livings’s stories remarkable isn’t just the tight prose and impressive research (he told the Wall Street Journal that he spent a year and a half reading oral histories from glassblowers and researching Mao Zedong’s embalming process for just one story), it’s that he managed to write about a foreign culture with nuance and depth and not mess it up....more
Posts Tagged: China
When the Chinese government created a China-themed pavilion at this year’s BookExpo America, several writers protested the event. Writer Andrew Solomon argued that the Chinese government used that expo as a platform to present their “approved literature to the world.” Now, for the New Yorker, Christopher Beam shares his experience visiting the controversial China pavilion, and explores why Chinese publishers struggle to attract American audiences:
The problem, from what I could tell, was that publishers didn’t seem to know what American readers wanted….
China represents a huge marketplace for any product, and book publishers have finally caught on. More than 10,000 Chinese books were available at the Book Expo America. But as publishers race to embrace the Chinese market and bring Chinese authors to the West, censorship by the world’s largest authoritarian state represents a real challenge....more
Santa’s elves spend all year manufacturing low-cost holiday decorations to bring Westerners Christmas cheer. The only problem? They aren’t elves, but Chinese factory workers. The Guardian explores life in the Chinese “Christmas Village” responsible for 60% of the world’s holiday decorations....more
The idea of “good writing” is shaped by social forces—that are in turn shaped by economic and historical forces—and our own identity privileges and privileges as editors (if we are editors). Determining what is good or bad is an aesthetic choice that requires the exercising of power.
Science fiction is a growing force on the Chinese literary landscape now that government scrutiny of the genre has loosened up, according to a recent article in the Times. The English publication of Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem, following the inclusion of several of the author’s stories in the prestigious People’s Literature journal in 2012, serve as evidence of a growing readership....more
Shakespeare is invading China. The first complete Chinese translation of the works of Shakespeare wasn’t released until 1967, but Britain’s number one dramatist is now starting to catch the attention of Chinese audiences, reports Melville House’s Moby Lives, saying Shakespeare is “having a cultural moment.”...more
Pankaj Mishra has always been a politically outspoken writer, so when Mo Yan, who has defended the Chinese government’s censorship, won the Nobel Prize, Mishra was the last person anyone expected to defend him.
But he did, asking, “Do we ever expose the political preferences of Mo Yan’s counterparts in the West to such harsh scrutiny?”...more
For Human Parts, the dazzling collection of essays curated by Stephanie Georgopulos on Medium, Djenab Conde writes about the complexities of eating at a Chinese restaurant with her Chinese mother and Guinean father.
Conde writes about how frustrating it is to never be recognized as Chinese even when she speaks the language, but the really heartbreaking part is the subtle ways she tries to protect her father’s feelings....more
This is my second-to-last round-up before I go on hiatus for my book tour, which is a sprawling, insane thing that’s lasting until the end of April, on and off. That’s nothing, of course, compared to the duration of some tours (the fabulous Adderall Diaries tour, for example, that gave birth to the Daily Rumpus), but I have three kids so I’m a little strung-out about it all....more
Did you know that Mark Twain is one of the best known foreign writers in China? Neither did we. There is a well earned, and unabashed image of Mark Twain as the quintessential American author and for good reason. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains in the American cannon and is taught all over the country however it was a lesser known story of his that has him being taught along side of Mao Zedong....more
Everyone loves a good ghost story, and one of the most popular ghost stories in the Chinese literary canon is that of Li Huiniang, a cruelly executed concubine who fights for justice from beyond the grave.
At the Appendix, Maggie Greene tells the tale’s history in reverse, from a hugely popular 1981 movie version all the way back to the first formally published version, which appeared during the Ming dynasty:
Li Huiniang had faced the ire of cultural radicals since 1963, even inspiring a ban on portraying ghosts in theater—the harbinger of the PRC’s swiftly increasing radicalization of culture and politics.
In the 1980s, when it became apparent that HIV was blood-borne, China banned blood donations from outside the country—but instituted no other HIV-related tests or regulations, not even against reusing needles. HIV quickly began to spread among those giving and receiving blood, possibly infecting as many as two million people....more
Eveline Chao has a fascinating longform article up at Foreign Policy about navigating government censorship while working at an English-language business magazine in China.
You can’t say “Tiananmen,” but “June 1989″ is all right. The headline “China’s ailing healthcare system—and the government’s plan to fix it” is unacceptable, but “The Chinese government’s plan to fix the ailing healthcare system” is fine....more
This month, Mo Yan is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, and the first non-European to win in the last decade.
At the San Francisco Chronicle, Christina Larson comments on the growing market for translated Chinese literature....more
A few weeks ago, a slim catalog from JCPenney arrived in our mailbox. It floated around the house for a few days. On its cover are printed these words:
fall trends 2010
I hadn’t noticed this until just the other day....more
Big Picture has some great pictures of the Berlin Reunion, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Not to glamorize crime or anything, but this plane stealing kid is pretty awesome.
on China’s Hakka “apartments.”
Austrian Stelarc is the most terrifying conceptual artist I’ve ever come across....more
North Korean women risk their lives to escape across the border to China, where they often face lives of indentured servitude and the ever-present fear of being outed by the husbands they marry or communities they join and sent back to North Korea....more
I’m a congenital traveler, had been long before I wrote my first book. I took my first plane ride when I was two weeks old (taught me to travel light) and haven’t slowed since. Other than the frequency of travel (you want me to come to China and you’ll pay for it?...more
“On first approach, Yunxiao seems like any other Chinese backwater caught in an uneasy industrial transition. Faded advertisements line the downtown streets, where motorcyclists wearing bamboo-frond hats vie for paying passengers in a riot of honking. A cheerful red banner in the city center exhorts citizens to develop the local economy....more
Twenty years ago today, June 4, 2009, the Tiananmen Square massacre took place in Beijing, China....more