Ever since Mo Yan received the Nobel Prize for Literature, a lively discussion has ensued among China’s soft power apparatchiks, bodies such as the China Writers Association, and writers, academics and translators—including some who, regrettably, were not born Chinese.
The topic? How to ensure greater success for the “campaign to take Chinese literature global.”
As a translator of Chinese fiction and books about traditional Chinese culture, I’d like to add my two cents worth here. My suggestions for “maximizing exports” of Chinese literature in translation in 2014 and beyond:
- Recognize that a person’s nationality and mother tongue are not the key determinants of his or her ability to help bring Chinese literature to the rest of the world;
- Establish a “Translator-in-Residence” fund, and actively recruit translators to reside in China for several months, where they can experience 21st century China and get to know Chinese writers, translators and publishers. Target a variety of nationalities and languages, rather than focusing exclusively—as is so often the case in China—on European languages.
- Tweek visa requirements so that translators of literature and works on traditional Chinese culture become eligible for legal stays in China when undertaking such translations, even if the publisher of the book (when translated) is not a Chinese company.
- Sponsor web sites and events on the ground that bring together Chinese translators with their foreign counterparts, so as to facilitate international partnering for future translation projects.