Writer Liu Zhenyun is selected as the first "reading ambassador" of the 30-year-old Beijing International Book Fair for the next five years. [China Daily]
Writer Liu Zhenyun returned on April 4 from a 20-day trip to seven European countries, including the Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany. There he observed obvious changes in Western readers' perspectives about Chinese literature.
"Twenty years ago, their interest was only confined to works on Chinese society and politics, which misled a bunch of Chinese writers to go for shortcuts and seek to be opportunists, and thus China became a strange country through their pens," says Liu.
"But now, Western audiences care more about the depth of life represented in Chinese literature," he adds.
Liu shares how European readers he met analyzed his novel, I Did Not Kill My Husband, translated by Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt, which is about a rural woman, Li Xuelian, reclaiming her reputation after being wrongly judged by her husband.
"The French readers say they are impressed by Li, who spends 20 years trying to right a wrong," says Liu.
The introduction of more Chinese books by top writers to overseas readers has made the change, says Liu.
The Chinese Culture Translation and Studies and Support group, under the Ministry of Culture, is one of the main organizations pushing the books abroad, as it offers a joint platform to protect copyright while increasing Chinese writers' overseas influence and appeal.
Meanwhile, at its Forum on Overseas Translation and Communication of Famous Works of Chinese Contemporary Literature last week, it focused on works by top writers, and released a guide of 40 recommended works from Chinese contemporary literature under the title Discover Chinese Literature.
An introduction in English and selected translations are available in the guide.
Digital distribution companies - including Amazon and Overdrive - were also invited to take part in the project.
The guide was created by veteran critic Bai Ye, who led a team of 40 critics and 30 chief editors of literary magazines in sifting through the works of 651 candidates.
The works included 31 novels, 61 novellas and 100 short stories. Three of Liu Zhenyun's works were also part of the works which were screened.
"We're offering a reference for foreign readers on the representative works of well written and genuine Chinese stories. And this is only a beginning."
In a related development, the Beijing International Book Fair - an influential platform for the copyright trade and publishing, and a place where Chinese books are introduced to the international market - appointed Liu as its first "reading ambassador" on Wednesday.
Lin Liying, the deputy general manager of the China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corporation and one of the fair's organizers, says: "After 30 years, BIBF has become the world's second-largest book event, after the Frankfurt Book Fair. But we know that if we want to continue growing we need to do something different, instead of just hosting the fair."
The fair, which is a window to Chinese writing and publishing, now attracts over 2,400 publishers from more than 80 countries.
Discussing Liu's appointment, Lin, who calls the writer "an old friend and a perfect choice", says he is a representative of contemporary Chinese literature and a winner of international literary awards. His works have been rendered in more than 20 languages.
Liu will be involved in multiple reading promotion events in the next five years.
"The Chinese are avid readers, and they are even writing more," Liu says. "It is just that the way they do it has changed. They are now writing using WeChat updates and the like."
Zhao Haiyun, deputy department head at the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, says that more than 150 Chinese contemporary writers - including Mo Yan, Mai Jia, Liu Zhenyun, Liu Cixin and Cao Wenxue - have won international literary awards and sold their works in foreign markets in the recent past.
"Chinese writers are gradually shining on the world stage, and I believe we will see more of this," says Zhao.
(Source: China Daily)