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  • Dec 26, 2016
    All the Clichés Apply (II)
    by Neil Gudovitz, Founder/President at Gudovitz & Company Literary Agency

    Most American readers have likely NEVER read a single work of nonfiction from a non-English-language author, not including the Greek philosophy he or she might have pretended to read in school.  And except for possibly a Nordic thriller here or there, the same is true for fiction. 

     

    In light of these realties, Americans can be forgiven for believing that we have all the best ideas in the world, and that everybody wants to be like us.    Many of us simply don’t know any better, and American publishers haven’t frankly felt the need to bring authors and ideas from international markets.   As such, they don’t have the structure, the processes, the expectations or the desire to consider publishing a translated work. I work with many editors at non-English language publishing houses around the world, and if these editors don’t review English-language text themselves, they always have “readers: who do.  It’s a necessity, plain and simple.  Not so in the US, though strangely I’ve heard that several have lately found Japanese-language enabled readers.

     

    Editors in the US and UK will not agree to publish something they cannot read.  Since they have NO patience for imperfect translations, they will in every instance conclude that the work necessary to prepare the text is too expensive and too time-consuming.    The simple fact is this: most editors answer to their bosses.  The idea that somehow a process can be funded and adopted to ‘perfect’ a translation, one which would require bringing on a translator to review the translation delivered from overseas is not a feasible one.   There are too many English manuscripts submitted daily for a publisher to add one or two new steps to the process in order to publish a translation.    

     

    Remember those leopards and their spots?   That’s American publishers – they are what they are.

     

    And here’s more bad news:  American publishers will not pay for the translations of authors who they have not published before.



    “Wait a minute,” you publishers must be saying now, “That’s not fair. We do that all the time.”  Yes you do, and thank you for that.  But as we’ve already agreed, life is not fair.  

     

    Another obvious obstacle is the unavailability of a given author to do local, long-term promotion.  My favorite cliché is that of the chicken and egg, but here the yolk is on us: a publisher will never bring an author over until his or her book is a success, but that success is almost impossible without the kind of ‘in-market’ presence, in print media, TV and radio that get the book and author known.   There is no replacement for this. 

     

    In the case of Marie Kondo, Sunmark, Penguin Random House (PRH) in the US and UK made extraordinary commitments in terms of staff and money to make interviews with the author possible.  They paid for interpreters, they dedicated staff to the (seriously) 24/7 job of promoting the book and the author.  And Sunmark and PRH combined to fund an extended, no-holds barred author tour, several of them in fact, in both London and NYC, LA , SF and Boston.    It all started with the Cathy Hirano translation, but take out one of the pieces above and you very likely would have had a book which was a solid performer, perhaps 50,000 sold.

     

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. My message to publishers in Asia is this:  you must prepare a native-language translation of an entire book. You can start with (3) chapters if you absolutely must, but you need to commit from the beginning to fund and prepare the entire translation.   Those (3) chapters could – maybe – be enough to keep the publishers interested, but if you want a book to get the chance it deserves, you need to accept that you must prepare a native-language translation of the entire text.      

     

    I should note that you (or your agent) may get super lucky and find a publisher in the US or UK who agrees to publish a book based on a sample translation. But if you rely on that possibility, you are limiting your field of possible publishers by about 98%?     Go bold or go home.

     

    You may know of a book that was published in English that didn’t have a full translation, but do you also have stories about the hundreds of thousands of great books that never get published in English because the original publishers didn’t commit to funding a high-quality translation?

     

    I’m going to tell you a secret.   Marie Kondo’s first book was licensed into 42 languages.   38 of them were outside of Asia.   All of those publishers had full access to the original text in Japanese, as well as the English-language translation.    All but one of those 38 publishers chose to translate from English. The exception was Italy, where there is a cultural tradition of publishing books from Japanese. But if you as an Asian publisher still think that you can have the kind of success with a book you want to have if the text is NOT translated into English, ask yourself why all those publishers around the world chose to translate from English.   Then ask yourself if the money Sunmark spent to fund a quality translation hasn’t been the corporate investment of a lifetime.

    I’ve written a lot about the past, but let me bring us back to the present. I'm working with the amazing Gray Tan and Jade Fu at The Grayhawk Agency, and together we’ve had Taiwanese illustrator Amily Shen (“Wonderland”) published in the US, also by Penguin Random House.

     

    We are also working together on the terrifically exciting Cats of the Floating World and a unique book that Grayhawk represents from the PRC, titled Room to Breathe. The literary agency world is a small one, with various strong personalities, some sweet, some sour, a few bland and many spicy. But one thing I know we all agree on is that Gray Tan understands this business. He’s among the elite agents in the world, and I don’t think there’s a more respected nor innovative agent working today. The publishers he works with also get it, or at least they do after Gray has counseled them. There are no shortcuts, no relying on “lucky breaks.”  A book can be a masterpiece, but if 99% of the publishers outside the Chinese-speaking world can’t read it (or only read it in a stilted translation), what’s the point?  

     

    Lately I’ve been having great international success with other exciting Sunmark titles out of Japan, and the Korean superagent Danny Hong (who also gets it) and I have sold several Korean authors into English-speaking markets.  In cooperation with Kenny Okuyama at the Japan UNI Agency, a Japanese book, originally published in Japan by Wani Books, titled now in English “Goodbye, Things” will publish in Spring 2017 from W.W. Norton in the US, and across the world in the next year.  And guess what?  Wani delivered a full, terrific translation too. 

     

    But turning back to Taiwan, I want to leave you with some good news. Your market is unique, and uniquely positioned to introduce books to the world books that people want to read.   You’re the “newest” nation in a part of the world dominated by ancient cultures, and as such you have a vibrancy and an optimism that I don’t think anybody else in Asia can match.  You have a rich cultural pedigree but aren’t weighed down by the past; and let’s face it, the realities of geography and economics being what they are, you have to work harder and smarter to survive and thrive.   The oppression and suppression of free expression which dominates your neighbor to the West, and the cultural and political conservatism which results, are not elements which weigh you down. Everybody loves an underdog (oh sorry, cliché alert…) and Taiwan is that. In illustrated works as well as non-fiction and fiction, there’s a palpable energy and ‘crackle’ emanating from Taiwan these days, and if your markets’ publishers want to be known as the ‘next Sunmark’ and share the best of what’s publishing in Taiwan with the rest of the world, they’ll capture those qualities in translations that express the original text in its finest essence. 

  • Dec 26, 2016
    All the Clichés Apply (I)
    by Neil Gudovitz, Founder/President at Gudovitz & Company Literary Agency

    All the clichés apply.   Go bold or go home.    You have to spend money to make money.  A leopard can’t change his spots.   And likely 1001 more but I’ll stop there, sparing you the suffering.  Clichés are like dental x-rays or family vacation photos, best kept to oneself.

     

    I've worked for over 20 years to license English-language books for translation into other language-markets.  During that time I’ve licensed books into more languages than I can remember, including Klingon…almost . (That was for a computer science book in the 1990’s and there’s a lot about that era we’d all like to forget.   The deal never went through because the ‘licensing publisher’ insisted on a bilingual contract. I wish I were joking…)   During my career, I’ve had a few opportunities to work on books written in languages other than English, but it was not until 2013 that I came upon a work that seemed to have the credentials to become a worldwide bestseller. I was having dinner in New York City with friends from the Japanese publisher Sunmark. Wanting to get them out of Manhattan and the tourist belt, I packed us all on the subway and took us to an Uzbeki restaurant in Queens.  We ate whatever the waitstaff put in front of us (most of it was on a stick) and drank Uzbeki beer, which comes in 3 varieties:  weak, medium and strong.  As I had to find our way back into Manhattan, I opted for the ‘weak’ beer but Sunmark was more courageous.   Even weak Uzbeki beer has a way to make its impact felt and after a while, as we discussed the books Sunmark was publishing, it struck me that a book they had recently published about tidying your house not only could be attractive to an American publisher, but it simply HAD to be the next big thing.  To my knowledge there had never been an Asian practical self-help book that sold very well in the USA, but this book seemed to so much going for it.  The assets of the book, combined with the perhaps unnaturally relaxed environment as we drank on, left me absolutely certain that Marie Kondo could be a bestseller.   Sunmark agreed, or at least I remember them agreeing, and we all got pretty excited about what was to come.  Unfortunately it was some special Uzbeki dessert glue-like substance so our celebration was interrupted, and then I proceeded thereafter to take us on the wrong direction on the subway.   At that point I’d only lived in NYC for 21 years so it was of course understandable.  

     

    Eventually our course was righted and another course took hold, one which eventually led to over 7 million copies of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up being sold worldwide, with more than 5 million of those coming in languages other than Japanese.   Everything about that book was a perfect storm, from the contents to the author herself to the emerging notion that people (particularly) simply have too much stuff and too little idea of what to do about it.   The book takes what is commonly regarded as a rather unpleasant task and makes it not only fun, but life-changing. But when asked, as I have been many times, to identify the ONE key to the book’s success outside of Japan, the element without which none of it could have happened, I always point to the simply flawless translation of the Japanese-language text submitted by Cathy Hirano, a translator born and raised in Canada who studied and now lives in Japan.   What you read in the American or British edition is 98% identical to the copy Sunmark delivered to my inbox some months after that drunken dinner.  

     

    I don’t frankly recall if they told me they were going to deliver a full English translation, or if I first said that it would be necessary to do so, but it was something we agreed upon without discussion. At that point, Sunmark had enjoyed excellent success in the American market with several other titles in translation, and they well understood what it took to reach that goal.  They didn’t doubt the quality of their work and they wanted the translations to reflect that quality to the greatest extent possible.    

     

    And this is one of the key points I wish to communicate in this piece: good enough is NOT good enough.  A skilled, University-trained translator, one who perhaps lived or studied for a time in the US or the UK is NOT enough. For a foreign-language book to be published in the US and/or the UK, the requirement is, without exception, is that the translation be prepared by a translator who was raised and educated in an English-speaking country. There is no substitute for this. I know what you’re thinking, “But isn’t something better than nothing”? Why can’t a translation be done by a highly-skilled local translator who has translated English into Chinese?” 

     

    Because it can’t. I’ve seen hundreds of bad translations and almost all of them have one dominant characteristic: the translator was translating away from his or her mother tongue.   There are also bad ones from native-language translations, but each one NOT from a native-language translator has been bad.

     

    A skilled native-language translator understands his or her language in ways that other translators cannot, and has a better sense of nuance, slang, and facile use of language that mark the best translations, the books that people clamor to read. 

     

    Remember that awful cliché that “you have to spend money to make money”?   That’s the idea here.   But why must this be the case? Because -- cliché alert – it turns out that life isn’t fair.    Hundreds of thousands of books published first in English are published in other languages around the world every year, by publishers from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.    So this exchange of ideas and information is a two-way stream, right?   Not exactly.   Fewer than 1% of fiction works published in the US every year are from foreign-language authors (classics of literature excepted), and less than 1/10th of 1% of trade nonfiction works published each year come from foreign languages. Recent political events have confirmed what I'm afraid many of us already knew:  the American public is a bit too xenophobic for comfort.  But we shouldn’t think this is a new phenomenon, it simply has a new champion.  One result is that for too many Americans the rest of the world is something to be avoided, to be feared, and from which we must be protected.  “America First” is not just a political rallying cry, for many it’s become a preferred way of life.

  • Dec 13, 2015
    Genre Fiction in Translation? A Dialogue
    by Anna Holmwood, translator and editor-in-chief of Books From Taiwan Issue 1-3

    ‘Translated literature? All that weird French existentialism and German meditations on man and nature. Nah, bit too ‘literary’ for me, that stuff. A bit poncey.’

            Please be introduced to our supposed friend, English Reader. Take a bow, English Reader.

            ‘Hello, yep, that’s me. English Reader. No taste. Not for that foreign stuff anyhow.’

            You mention the word ‘literary,’ dear English Reader. What do you mean?

            ‘Well, you know, it’s just another word for ‘difficult,’ isn’t it?’

            You don’t think it’s a bit like calling an apple appley? Or rain wet?

            ‘Erm?’

            What I mean is, what’s literary literature? Sounds like an oxymoron.

            ‘Okay, fancy pants. I just mean, I don’t know, it’s a bit different. This translated literature. Like, I don’t know if it’s going to be good, because I can’t read the original. How do I know the translator hasn’t taken everything that’s good about the original and gone and made it, well you know, rubbish. I can’t judge it. It makes reading it so exhausting.’

            So if you don’t like to read ‘literary’ literature, this difficult stuff, what is it you like? ‘Genre’ literature?

            ‘’Genre’ literature? You mean, popular stuff? Yeah, I like to read things with a good story, what’s your point?’

            If you’re going to decide some things are ‘literary,’ you’re comparing it to something, something not ‘literary.’ I’m just wondering what that is for you.

            ‘I like to read crime fiction, yeah, I guess you’re telling me that’s ‘genre’ fiction. But I also like things that have won awards too. Amazon doesn’t ask me to choose from a selection called ‘genre’ fiction. Sounds like you’re being a bit snobby to me.’

            I’m just trying to understand the words we use for different types of books. It seems to be something that can irritate people.

            ‘If you disparage people for their reading tastes, then yes, it can be irritating.’

            But you just told me you don’t like translated fiction? Aren’t you the one being the snob? Presumably you don’t include Stieg Larsson in your ‘translated fiction is all difficult to understand’ grand sweeping statement?

            ‘No, but that’s probably because you’re the one putting words in my mouth. And anyway, talk about going for the obvious; Scandi crime. I’m not that into it, actually. It might have escaped your notice, but you just created me as your archetypal English Reader a few moments ago, the bogey man to your Literary Translator persona.’

            I hadn’t actually introduced myself.

            ‘Then I think it’s time you did. Everyone, meet Literary Translator.’

            Thank you. Yes, I happen to translate literature from Chinese and Swedish into English. That’s my job, and I’m trying to get to grips with what everyone says the English Reader wants. It’s part of my job. That’s why I’m talking to you.

            ‘Except, you’re not really. You’re making me say what you want to hear. That I don’t like translated fiction.’

            Because you said so, just up there.

            ‘No, you made me say that. I believe you got to me to call it ‘foreign stuff.’ But I wonder if you’re really open to talking to me about translated literature, or you just want to make assumptions about what I really think.’

            Okay, shall we start again? This conversation has turned a little hostile.  

            ‘Damn right it has. Because apparently I have to stand in for all readers in English, like some Everyman that has to defend the fact that apparently we translate so little. Why is this my responsibility all of a sudden? At least I actually buy books, why am I the bad guy now?’

            I guess that is a bit unfair, you’re right. Let me take a quick peek at your shelves. You seem to consume books in a fairly representative way though, you know, of the ‘mainstream.’ A good spattering of the best seller lists. I am Malala, the new Harper Lee (did you like it?), oh, even some adult colouring books!

            ‘Yes, but you’re also ignoring my sci-fi and fantasy collection, which includes… Let me see… Stanislaw Lem, Gert Jonke and wait, you’ll like this one, a bit out of the box, Wu Ming-Yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes. Cli-fi, they call it.’

            You’ve read Wu Ming-Yi’s book! Wow. Did you like it?

            ‘Yes, it was really lyrical, and quite beautifully detailed. I didn’t really know what to expect, so it was a bit more challenging than a lot of the other stuff I read. I mean, I don’t really know much about Taiwan. But I saw Margaret Atwood tweet about it, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did.’

            That’s brilliant! So, it wasn’t too ‘literary’?

            ‘Like I said, I had to put a bit of effort into it. Usually I like to read on my way to work, I have a forty-five-minute ride on the tube and so it helps me pass the time. But I found it a bit hard to concentrate on this one in the morning rush hour, with everyone’s sweaty armpits in my face. So I ended up finishing it on holiday, when I had a bit more time. This is the thing, you can’t go on at people about how good it is to read more fiction in translation and then get upset with them when they quite legitimately tell you that reading it takes more effort. I haven’t been to every country in the world, so sometimes the local elements in the story are a bit more difficult to grasp. The motivations behind the ways the characters behave, I guess.’

            Yes, I suppose you’re right. Sometimes the way the story is told also takes a bit of getting used to. Not every culture takes the same approach to storytelling. It would be boring if they did.

            ‘Exactly! Sometimes translated books can feel a bit odd and you can’t put your finger on why. I don’t know if it’s because there are different cultural conventions, or, if the translator hasn’t done a good job. If I could read the original and know that, I wouldn’t need it translated!’

            But you have quite a collection of foreign sci-fi by the sounds of it?

            ‘I think it’s interesting to see how different writers from different countries imagine the future, or alternate realities. It says a lot about their view of the world. But at times, I’m not sure I’m totally getting what it is they’re trying to say. It could just be lost in translation.’

            Ah! I hate that phrase. Can you not say that to a literary translator?

            ‘But you can’t stop me from wondering if that’s what’s going on! How do I know if every translator is really skilled enough to bring someone else’s words into English? Not being able to judge because I can’t read the original, well, it leaves me a bit nervous. And yet that seems to offend you translators.’

            It does take a lot of trust…

            ‘Yes, I’ve got to trust you haven’t messed up a really good book. When I’m reading something written in English, I can just say, ‘That was brilliant!’ or ‘That was rubbish!’ all based on my own taste. But I don’t know if something is really rubbish if it’s been translated. Maybe you were the one that was rubbish.’

            The conversation has turned a bit hostile again. I’d just like to point out, translators worry about this more than any reader does, trust me. It’s a heavy weight. And sometimes we can sense that a certain stylistic element will be totally unfamiliar, if not downright weird, to an English reader. I mean you, English Reader. I can tell that you might think it ‘doesn’t work in English,’ but what I am I supposed to do? Should I only suggest translating things that tally completely with your expectations, should we all decide that if it’s challenging, it's not worth it?

            ‘Of course not. Didn’t we start this whole conversation with you making out that I only wanted an easy read, that I was just into ‘genre’ fiction? I think you should admit, that I’m a bit more open minded than you first allowed me to be.’

            That’s true. We are clearly both suspicious of this word ‘genre’ fiction anyway. But what I think it comes down to is, people never pick up a book without having certain expectations about it before they start. If I tell you, ‘This is a sci-fi novel,’ but don’t tell you it’s from Taiwan, you’re going to read it expecting it to have certain features of a sci-fi novel that may or may not be present. This will shape your response.

            ‘It will, but you can tell me it’s both. A sci-fi novel and originally written in Chinese. Maybe that way, I’ll know to be a bit more flexible, or be willing to put in a bit more effort.’

            But will you pick it up if you know it’s translated?

            ‘I already did, didn’t I? My point is, I can’t be expected to read every book published in English, let alone published in every language on the planet and then translated into English. When I go into a bookshop, or download something onto my Kindle, I have to make choices. Sometimes I want something easy, something where I know what I’m getting. And sometimes I want something new. But how I make those choices is a bit random, depends on how I’m feeling. You don’t get angry with me for not picking up the debut of some unknown British author writing in English, do you? So, you have to allow me to make certain personal preferences when it comes to authors I’ve never heard of from the other side of the world too.’

            Hence why you’re into foreign sci-fi, but don’t have a lot of Mexican contemporary fiction on your shelves?

            ‘Precisely. I like science fiction, I read a lot in that genre, so it’s easier for me to branch out a bit into foreign sci-fi too. But just because I didn’t buy the latest Knausgård doesn’t mean I’m not going to buy a book from Taiwan. Despite your disparaging remarks about ‘genre’ fiction, knowing something written in Chinese is considered to belong to a certain genre, say sci-fi, helps me understand it. I’m more likely to pick it up than if you just tell me, ‘Hey, English Reader, this book was written by a Taiwanese author, you should check it out!’ You’ve got to help me out a bit. Throw me a bone.’

            So what you’re saying is, you’re not necessarily going to be interested because it’s been translated…

            ‘No, not me personally, although maybe that appeals to other readers. And that’s probably what makes it difficult if you just tell me it’s translated and its ‘literary fiction,’ that could mean anything.’

            I think that was my point to begin with, it’s an oxymoron. Appley apples, remember?

            ‘Yeah, oxymoronic. So recommend me some more Taiwanese sci-fi already. Or a good Taiwanese spy thriller. Or a Taiwanese colouring book, I need to relax.’

            Okay, I’m working on it.

     

  • Jun 29, 2015
    All in a Name
    by Eleanor Goodman. Translator.

    Translations seems to occupy uneasy territory, with some believing that it is a mechanical action that can be accomplished with software, and others believing that it is a creative act equal to any other original composition. Of course, translation is neither wholly creative nor wholly derivative, in the sense that a new creative work does not spring from a vacuum but is necessarily made from elements of its antecedents.

    First we should define exactly what we mean by ‘translation.’ Are we talking about translating a car repair manual or banking information? That is to say, a work that did not engage the many rich tools of expression in the original language, and whose object is intended to directly convey straightforward information. Or are we talking about a piece of literature, a work that necessarily engages in a creative conversation with its native language, pushing against linguistic and other boundaries to build a world in and of itself? In the former case, software or a website like Google Translate may someday prove to be sufficient (although they have not yet). But in the latter, more interesting, case, mechanical translation is hopeless against the tools authors employ: rhyme, rhythm, puns, metaphor, irony, implication, humor, tone. These are things that are created by language, not conveyed by it. Not only computers but also unskilled human translators will find themselves unable to mimic these elements in the target language.

    Perhaps it is old hat to say that literary translation involves two primary skills. Given what sometimes passes for translation, however, it bears repeating. One must have not only an accurate understanding of, but also a sensitive feel, for the original language; and one must have a flexible, keen ability in the target language. Only the rare individual can bring both of these skills to the table. In the case of Chinese to English translation, because the languages are so far from each other structurally and expressively, the bold translator is presented with agonies and opportunities in the fertile ground between these two linguistic arenas.

    As T.S. Eliot has it: ‘Immature poets imitate. Mature poets steal.’ Mature translators adopt what is on offer in the original and adapt it to produce something as forceful, as alive, in the target language. Sometimes this involves abandoning the structure of the original, daunting though that may be. This is a fundamental difference between the two categories I set out above. When a car repair manual presents instructions as to how to change the oil, it would be a mistake to change the specifics or modify the context. Doing so will subvert the intention of the original in a way that makes the translation problematic. But a literary work has more inherent flexibility—it is built out of a material that flexes in many directions. If the text is any good, it is multidimensional. That is not to say that one can take infinite liberties with a literary text. Obviously not. Such ‘translations’, including famous ones like Pound’s Cathay, slip into the territory of imitation, borrowing, or the vague category of works ‘inspired by’ other works. But a translator who is armed with all that the target language has to offer can and must take leaps of faith. In the end, the translator must accept that there are successes and losses in any given moment in a translation. It is very rarely a question of simple equivalents.

    Take a straightforward, but tricky, example. In the Taiwanese novelist Chu Shao-Lin’s book Swallow Dance, one of the main characters is nicknamed Young Dragon. He is a dancer, and the name fits his profession, with its implications of powerful, graceful movements filling the air. The name is also a pun. The dancer is deaf, and the way the name is pronounced—longzi—is a homophone for ‘deaf man.’ It is the kind of correspondence that exists in the scope of one given language and most often cannot be replicated exactly in the target language, especially when those languages are as diverse as Chinese and English. So the translator goes through a painful process of decision-making. The simplest solution is just to use the pinyin, that is to say, to name the character Longzi. But then of course both the pun and the associations are lost. Another solution is to call the character Dragon or Little Dragon. But the name isn’t a name in English: it’s clunky and will stick in the reader’s craw each time she comes across it. Then there is the literal route of naming him Deaf—a move that is sure to turn readers off.

    As with most problems, there is no perfect solution. Whatever the translator chooses—short of naming the character Jim and forgetting about it—will sound a bit strange in the target language. But strangeness, for a serious translator, is not necessarily undesirable. The point, as I take it, is not to produce a translation in which everything has been domesticated to the point that it reads a smoothly and blandly as advertising copy. Literature is challenging and literature from other cultures and languages even more so. Weirdness can only be taken so far—it’s a balancing act—but insecure translators (or inept ones) will aim for a kind of linguistic innocuousness that files down the teeth of the original. This is an injustice to the work in question, as well as to readers.

    In this case, the solution I came to was to call the character Def. That hopefully keeps some of the implication of the original, as according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, def is slang for ‘excellent.’ For some readers, there will also the musical resonance with Def Leopard, appropriate because the character proves to be a bit of a rebel. Regardless of whether the reader picks up on the association (consciously or unconsciously), at least the name maintains the homonym (def/deaf). It is a stab in the right direction that maintains the integrity of the original, which is ultimately the aim of the translator.


     

  • Jun 29, 2015
    Tools for Editing Translations
    by Canaan Morse. Translator.

    One of the several reasons many American publishers don’t like working with translations is because their editors don’t know how to edit them. With multilingual editors still a significant minority in the industry, it still appears to be common practice for the editor of a translation to position herself either too far from the text or too close—to leave too much of the editing to the translator, possibly out of respect for the foreign source text, or to edit the translation as if it were written in English, without regard for its non-English origin.

    I’d like to offer here three analytical tools in the form of questions for the editor of a translated text. These questions are, of course, founded on certain assumptions about the nature of literary meaning-making. The first is that all appraisals of quality are contextual: the editor decides what ‘works’ by comparing the text to itself and to other texts from his experience. The fact that the translation is related to another text that exists in a foreign linguistic environment makes the editor’s job harder, but not impossible. This leads into the second assumption, which is that the old saw about translation being impossible is at the most untrue, or at the least unimportant. After Derrida argued with great force that all utterances are self-contradictory, literary artists continued to practice their craft. Moreover, as our understanding of translation broadens, we begin to find elements of it embedded in seemingly more ‘original’ practices of creative writing and reading. As outdated understandings of the process are overturned, so too is the conception of the product as an inferior version of an ‘original’ text; we begin to see it as something more than a monolingual work of literature.

    Question 1: Is it justifiable?

    Good translators often represent phenomena from the source text that are considered inseparable from the source language (puns, cadences, assonances and rhyme schemes) by borrowing or creating analogous structures within the target language. Burton Watson imitated the perfect symmetry of five- and seven-character Tang poems (律詩) by regulating numbers of syllables per line. William Lyell translated peasant dialogue in his rendition of The Real Story of Ah Q (Lyell 1990) * into a blue-collar American dialect with a slightly Southern twang. In both cases, the translators’ inventions built new interpretive contexts in order to reproduce similar linguistic effects. Here is a more extreme example, excerpted from Brian Holton’s translation of Bai Hua’s poem ‘Mock Nursery Rhyme’**:

    紅,是寂寞紅 red is Lady in Red
    春,是玉堂春 spring is Might as Well Be Spring
    秋,是漢宮秋 autumn is When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall
    魚,是黃花魚 fish is Like a Sturgeon Touched For The Very First Time

    味,是上海味 taste is the taste of Shanghai
    玲,是張愛玲 clang is Eileen Chang

    No literal translation of the classical drama types 《玉堂春》or 《漢宮秋》will replicate—or do anything but destroy—the ironic cadence of the original, which satirizes these hallowed names by associating them with single characters and seemingly trivial things like fish. Similarly, there is no translation of 玲 as a single character that will echo in Zhang Ailing’s (Eileen Chang’s) English name. The translator responds to extreme difficulty with extreme invention, employing playful satire in the construction of the first stanza, and a complex homophony (ling 玲 (delicate, ornate) – ling 鈴 (bell) –clang) in the last line. As Holton’s editor, I allowed these decisions because they were justifiable both within the English text (they established a recognizable interpretive context) and in comparison to the Chinese (they imitated crucial effects created by the source text).

    2. Does it ‘wobble’?

    I borrow this word from Ezra Pound, who suggested that good poetry would not ‘wobble’ when translated, but I use it quite differently. While divergence from a source text is not necessarily a problem (for reasons just discussed), bad translation often creates a kind of ambiguity that can be spotted immediately by an experienced editor. One such editor, reading my translation of He Qifang’s 何其芳 essay Autumn Begonia, left this comment by one sentence: ‘Interesting how I can tell where the translation veers off even before I look at the original.’ He was responding to a stylistic decision I had made in an action-heavy sentence which not only made that sentence stand out, but also created ambiguity where none existed. The text ‘wobbled’ in front of the reader. Good translation editors learn to spot wobbling text on their first read-through, and most of it can be fixed by working with the translator to find more fitting alternatives.

    3. Does it work?

    How much do you love the work you’re reading? Is the text awkward and unnatural—what we call ‘translationese’—or does it stay with you for days? There have been many cases in which bad translation has limited the artistic power of a work; there have also been cases in which a brilliant, inspired translator has created a text that is significantly different or better than the source. Ezra Pound’s translations of Li Bai 李白 in Cathay come immediately to mind, as do Robert Lowell’s translations of Sappho in Imitations. These are fairly far-out examples of translatorial license, but in any such instance, the editor will need to make an ethical decision about whether the translator’s additions have done more good than harm, as well as how she should understand the ownership of the text. If she believes that good art carries its own independent weight, and recognizes the translator as one creator of a hybrid text, then she should afford some leeway to the translator when it is justified (see Steven Bradbury’s translated version of Hsia Yü’s poetry collection Salsa for examples of co-creative translation).

    That being said, the question ‘does it work?’ does not have the kind of authority over the previous two questions when its subject is a translated text as it might when the text is monolingual. Since translations exist in a balance with their respective source texts, the editor must balance his appeals to his own aesthetic sense with consideration for what he doesn’t know, which can be done by comparing his answer to the third question with his answers to the first two—and, of course, by working with a translator who can be trusted with veto power over any change made.

    Translations are not summaries, copies, or references. They are independent works of literature that exist in a special relationship with other works, which makes them unique and different in a positive way from monolingual texts. The three questions I’ve presented above were formulated as tools for practical editing, to help translation editors make decisions that are both objectively defensible and artistically sensitive.


    ---------------------------------------------------
    *Lu Xun 魯迅, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. Trans. William Lyell. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1990.
    **Bai Hua 柏華, ‘Mock Nursery Rhyme’ 假兒歌. Trans. Brian Holton. Pathlight: New Chinese Writing, Issue 6, 2013.
     

  • Mar 26, 2015
    Translating Children’s Books
    by Helen Wang, Translator

    As children, we like books for their stories and pictures, and for the special times and feelings we associate with reading or being read to. When we grow up and look back on our childhood favourites, it can be quite shocking to open a book you once adored and discover that you now consider it dated, sexist, racist, or boring. The story and the pictures are the same as they always were, but you, the reader, have changed, and the world you live in has evolved. In a similar way, translating children’s books can be shocking too.


    My first translations of children’s books were the picture books I read with my own children when they were little. They would choose a book and I would read. If they chose a book in a foreign language, then I would read the words in that language and tell them the story in English. It was fun! It also taught me three important things when translating children’s books. First, that the storytelling is crucial. Children quickly lose interest if the storytelling isn’t right. Second, that it’s essential to edit appropriately for the audience. Does the praying mantis have to be so gleeful about eating her husband after they’ve mated? Third, that if you can do the first two, then you can probably translate just about any children’s book.


    However, not everything that can be translated can be published. For a while, my son was crazy about the television series Black Cat Police Chief 黑貓警長 and we read-translated-edited the books that accompanied the series at home. A few years ago, I showed some images of the front covers of those books during a lecture at the Annual Chinese Teaching Conference in London. There was a lively reaction from the young teachers in the audience. But when I said I didn’t think the books would ever be allowed in UK schools or libraries, there was a confused silence. They remembered enjoying the books themselves, and it was only when I pointed out the motorbike-revving, the gun-brandishing, the ever-angry expressions, the violence and police brutality that they began to see them from a different perspective.


    We want children to enjoy books. Some books entertain, some books educate, and many books do both. But when we are translating children’s books across languages and cultures, we have to be aware of different tolerances. Sometimes a draft translation can feel wrong and it can be helpful to look objectively at a direct, or literal, translation and consider if it conveys the author’s original intention. Perhaps the impact is stronger or weaker than the author intended, or the tension in the storytelling feels awkward, or the joke just isn’t funny in English. Children’s books can be packed with cultural complexities—try translating a nursery rhyme and see if you can retain the fun, the rhythm and the compact cultural references all at the same time. It’s not easy!


    Why did my children choose particular books? Well, they were little, and at that age, it was the visual appeal of the books, the quality of the printing and production, the illustrations and the story. It wasn’t about translation or where the stories came from. It was about the books.


    But when children in the UK go to a library or a bookshop, they generally don’t have much choice when it comes to foreign or translated titles. Helpful staff may offer to order them in for you, but they seldom have the books there on the shelves. And because the staff rarely see translated children’s books, they probably don’t know them and aren’t in a position to make recommenations. It’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation and means you really have to want to find these books and often have to order and pay for them without seeing them first. Personally, I think it’s a bit dishonest to blame the lack of translated children’s books on a lack of demand.


    In fact, many of the favourite stories for children in English are adaptations of stories from other countries that are so domesticated now that it’s often assumed they were English to start with. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast were translated from French by Charles Perrault in the seventeenth century. Snow White, Rapunzel, The Frog Prince, and Hansel and Gretel were translated from German by the Brothers Grimm in the nineteenth century. The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid and Thumbelina were translated from Danish by Hans Christian Anderson, also in the nineteenth century. Many of these stories came from even older folk tales, and who knows where they might have come from originally. They survived because they were good stories and were told over and over again.


    Looking at lists of books with multiple translations, it’s striking how many of them are children’s books. Although these lists are probably not wholly reliable, the figures are still remarkable. To give a few examples: The Little Prince (253 translations), Pinocchio (240), Alice in Wonderland (159), Anderson’s Fairy Tales (159), The Adventures of Asterix (114), The Adventures of Tintin (112), Pippi Longstocking (70), Harry Potter (67), Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl (67), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (65), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (60), Heidi (50), Winnie the Pooh (50), The Moomins (44), Miffy (40), Paddington Bear (40), The Tale of Peter Rabbit (36), Anne of Green Gables (36), Charlotte’s Web (35), Totto-chan, Little Girl at the Window (35).


    I’ll end with a more recent ‘international children’s classic’: The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Since it was first published in 1999, it has been translated into over fifty languages, including Chinese, as 咕噜牛. And it was inspired, says the author, by a Chinese story, probably 狐假虎威, which I assume she must have read or heard in English. In other words, The Gruffalo was inspired by an adaptation of an account in the Strategies of the Warring States (战国策) compiled well over two thousand years ago!

  • Mar 26, 2015
    Translating Body Language
    by Nicky Harman, Translator

    I have worked as a literary translator for around fifteen years and I have noticed some interesting cultural differences between Chinese and English when it comes to how the human body and its functions are described in literature. When I began to do some research, I discovered only one other article which deals with the same topic: David Pollard’s ‘Body Language in Chinese-English Translation,’ which appeared in An Encyclopaedia of Translation: Chinese-English English-Chinese, published by the Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, in 2001. Pollard reaches the conclusion that in Chinese fiction, great attention is paid to the outward manifestations of emotions and that, when translated directly into English, this can sound very strange. This became the starting point of my research.


    I am a working translator, so it is not enough for me to understand those differences. I have to find ways of translating them. So let me start with some practical examples and ask whether and how they can give us some useful guidance on translating these cultural and literary differences.


    I want to start with an example from a novel I am translating. This is an intensely emotional scene in which a husband and wife realise their marriage has failed. They are about to go to the 離婚登記處. This is what the Chinese says:


               她的臉發綠,他的臉發灰。他們一前一後騎著車……


    If I translate that directly into English as ‘her face went green, his face went grey,’ unfortunately, this doesn't mean much to the English reader. So a direct translation will give the reader the words but not the meaning of the sentence.


    Chinese has many rich and various ways in which to describe the body, body movements and bodily functions, and the feelings they express. Here are some I’ve come across over the years:


    1. There are verbs in Chinese for movements which one can picture exactly but which have no equivalent in English.


    a. 我嘴努努電梯。This could be described in English as ‘I pursed my lips’ OR ‘made a moue’ OR ‘jerked my chin in the direction of the lift’. The problem with 努努嘴 is that there is no single verb in English for using your mouth to indicate something without speaking. So all these translations are too long and somewhat unclear.


    b. 白眼 (NB Pollard gives 轉眼). This is the definition I have found: 朝上或朝兩邊看時露出的白眼珠。用白眼看人,表示輕蔑或厭惡。But we don’t turn up our eyes to express scorn in English, so generally the translator has to express it in a more general way: ‘looked scornful’ or ‘showed her repugnance.’


    2. English has only a small number of verbs to describe the actions of pick up (with the hand), hold (in the hand) and carry (using hands, arms or back), but Chinese has a much larger number of verbs, with very specific meanings: Hold (in the hand) 拿、握。Pick up (with the hand) 拎、拾、掇、撿。Carry (using hands, arms or back) 端、 抱、背、 抬、提、夾。So in this example, we have to use the same word in English, carry, for two different words in Chinese, 提 and 挽:


                   走進來的是媽媽,她提著一個很大的飯盒,另一隻手挽著個保溫桶。


    3. Sometimes Chinese is very specific about what part of the body is moving, when English simply says or implies the body in general. In this example, a woman is lost in the desert, surrounded by a pack of 豺狗:
    瑩兒望著那些環顧的眼,伸了伸脖子,想,你們來吧。‘Ying faced up bravely to the encircling eyes. Come on then! What are you waiting for? she said to herself.’ My English translation doesn’t mention her neck. Instead, I have described her general body language (she stands tall and faces the 豺狗) and her feelings (brave).


    4. Sometimes the meaning of a sentence seems obvious to the Chinese reader but needs added explanation in English.


    a. 他嗷嗷叫。‘He cried out,’ but was it in fear? Physical pain? Mental anguish? So in English we have to add an explanation: ‘He cried out in anguish.’


    b. 肉販說,一揮手。 ‘The butcher waved.’ But did he wave in greeting or was he waving them away or beckoning to come? So in English the translator might add ‘The butcher waved them away.’


    5. English is less explicit and colourful than Chinese in describing bodily functions. A literal translation can sound embarrassing in English. More importantly, it can sometimes sound crude, when that wasn’t the author’s intention.


    a. In this story, an elderly couple are discussing what to have for dinner. The husband is annoyed: 他煩了。我怎麼知道?剛剛吃的東西還沒有化成屎,你叫我能說什麼?Because they are polite, urban people, it would give the wrong impression in English to translate 化成屎 as ‘turned into shit,’ as it is too crude.


    b. Snot is a fluid we don’t usually mention in connection with adults, even when they are in floods of tears. So how to translate this woman’s grief ? 她哭得鼻涕都流出來了。 If I translate it literally, (‘She cried until the snot ran down her face’), it makes both the writer and the woman in the story sound childish.


    6. Finally, the head and the heart. In Chinese, many things happen in the heart that happen elsewhere in English. A simple example: 我心裡覺得。But in English, we don’t think in our hearts, we think in our heads, in our minds. So the translation here is simply, ‘I think.’


    a. Here is a more complex example: 他非常溫柔地說:你還有我嘛。他的這句話深深地擊中了我的心,我知道原來這就是愛情。It may surprise you to hear that in English we do not get hit in the heart, even when we’re in love. We might translate this as ‘a kick in the gut!’


    b. And another example: 當然,丫頭的死,真揪了我心上的肉……那時,我心裡最不能碰的,就是這事。This is a perfect illustration of Pollard’s observation that in Chinese literature, there is a focus on the ‘outward manifestations of emotions.’ In English, we do talk about the heart being ‘wrenched’ 揪. So: the death of a baby is ‘heart-wrenching.’ But what about 我心裡最不能碰的? ‘The bit of my heart that I didn’t want touched?’ In English, we can’t really express this in quite such a concrete, physical way. I was interested to learn that in traditional Chinese medicine, the brain/mind doesn’t appear at all as a key organ of the body, only the heart. But does this answer the question as to why so much of Chinese thoughts, as well as feelings, happen in the 心?


    What’s the solution? Some guiding principles


    What should guide our choice as to how we put these expressions into English for the English-language reader? How much liberty does the translator have? This is a debate that has been going on for as long as translation itself.


    Looking back through the history of Chinese translation, I have found that there was a great debate around the translation of the Buddhist texts into Chinese around 230 AD/CE. The question was, should a translation be unhewn 質 and direct 直, or elegant 雅?* Even before the Buddhist translators, there was Laozi, the Daoist philosopher, who said: 信言不美, 美言不信。 These are almost the exact same words as an old French saying about translation: ‘Quand elle est belle, elle n’est pas fidèle, quand elle est fidèle, elle n’est pas belle.’


    Translation theory often focuses around the core questions of faithfulness, domestication versus foreignisation, and loyalty. But rather than ask if a text is loyal to word-choice, I personally prefer to use the ideas of a translation theorist called Christiane Nord. She talks about the notion of loyalty to the author’s intentions. Nord says that: ‘The bigger the cultural gap, the smaller the possibility for the readers to establish analogies with their own world. But the translator has a responsibility to both the target audience, whose subjective theories have to be taken into account, and the source-text sender, whose communicative intentions must not be turned into their opposite. The responsibility is what I call ‘loyalty’. **


    What is interesting about Nord’s concept is that with ‘loyalty’ she is talking about two relationships: between translator and author, on the one hand, and translator and reader, on the other. Faithfulness and domestication/foreignisation imply comparisons at the textual level. Faithfulness focuses on a similarity between the source and the target texts, and ignores the communicative intentions of the author.


    Lets go back to the coloured faces and look at the thought processes that I go through as a translator in order to decide on a translation. First, what does the author mean? What is the author trying to express? Then, what resources do I have at my disposal?


    Of course I can consult dictionaries and the Internet. These tell me that a green face in Chinese can be angry (氣得臉發綠 or 氣得臉發青). This, of course, is different from English, where a green face expresses either jealousy, or physical nausea. Perhaps anger is meant here, although it is not explicitly stated.


    Since the dictionaries and the Internet have not given me a clear answer, I could ask the author. Questions on the text can be the start of a very rewarding professional relationship. In this case, this is what she wrote to me in an email:


    我當時的心象,很簡單,就是一種由於生氣焦慮與憂傷反應在臉上的表情,他的臉灰了,她的臉綠了,實際上不會有這種色彩,這是一種情緒反應到臉上的誇張的寫法。因為現實中可能內心的痛苦影響到臉上的表情,極有可能是「氣得發紅」,或者「臉色蒼白」之類,但那都是一種俗套的寫法,我不願意落入俗套,所以用了誇張的手法。


    According to Christiane Nord, we should look at communicative intentions of the author; she wants to convey the idea that husband and wife are angry and upset. But she is also using vivid imagery, so my English translation has to use vivid imagery too.


    So here’s one solution:她的臉發綠,他的臉發灰。他們一前一後騎著車……
    ‘Whey-faced, they got on the bicycle…’
    Whey is the clear liquid from milk, which has gone sour and separated. Whey-faced means pale or grey with misery and anxiety.


    Or I could choose a more ‘English-style’ translation and describe their emotions directly:
    ‘Looking angry and miserable, they got on the bicycle…’


    Whether I choose (a) or (b) for my translation, the English reader will not picture a green and grey face, but they will understand the author’s intention.


    As I hope this essay will have shown, in describing emotional states, Chinese describes body movements and leaves us to infer the feelings, but English does the opposite. In other words, Chinese is more specific physically, less explicit emotionally. In English it is the other way around.


    I think that the issue of translating body language illustrates, in microcosm, the challenges that translators face. Every day, translators perform a balancing act: we try to retain the richness and colour of the original but also put it into a different language, and different cultural context, in such a way that it has meaning for the reader. We are rarely satisfied with our efforts. I imagine that all translators struggle with a feeling that something has been lost in their translations. But one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is that we get the chance to examine the text really closely. We could call it getting inside the head of the author. We ask ourselves, what mental image did she or he have in their mind when writing those words? Why did s/he choose that particular physical image to describe an emotional state and not another one? Whether we are translating body language or descriptions of a landscape, or martial arts action scenes, the words we choose should both be loyal to the intentions of the author while also reflecting the richness of the language into which we are translating, English.


    ---------------------------------------------------
    *Martha Cheung, An Anthology of Chinese Discourse on Translation, Volume One: From Earliest Times to the Buddhist Project, (St. Jerome Publishing, 2006)
    ** ‘Loyalty Revisited: Bible Translation as a Case in Point,’ in The Translator, Vol 7, Number 2 (2001), p 195

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Dec 12, 2014
    Taiwan/Fiction, and all the way to France
    by Gwennaël Gaffric

    I was invited by Philippe Thiollier, editor of L'Asiathèque Publishing House, to direct a new imprint, Taiwan / Fiction, which we launched in October this year.


    Taiwan / Fiction is not strictly speaking the first dedicated series of Taiwanese literature in France. The Lettres Taïwanaises collection was created in 2000 by three professors, Chan Ching-Ho, Angel Pino and Isabelle Rabut, who have published (and sometimes translated) literary works by the Chu family (Chu Hsi-Ning, Chu T'ien-Wen and Chu T'ien-Hsin), Ch'en Yin-Chen, Chang Ta-Ch'un, Hwang Ch'un-Ming, and more recently Wuhe.


    Taiwan / Fiction's goal is somewhat different to that of the Lettres Taïwanaises imprint, since the texts we will translate and publish are primarily contemporary novels and not necessarily classics or already well recognised in the history of modern Taiwanese literature. We are instead interested in writers that appears to us to be representative of new voices, new viewpoints and new literary experiments from the island.


    We will concentrate on living authors who explore the changing world in which we live through their literature. Thus, we don't simply focus on historically 'representative' Taiwanese writers or literary movements, but authors whose works have a wider resonance, which are not limited to their own contexts. Of course, this doesn't mean that these authors can't talk about the singular Taiwanese experience, on the contrary, we would like to introduce in French works that can show that the Taiwanese experience illustrates and reveals the current state of our world, or generates fresh perspectives on it.


    In the original statement announcing the launch of our collection, we wrote as follows:

    [...] The ambition of the Taiwan / Fiction series is to translate and publish texts whose subjects and scope should go beyond Taiwan or the so-called 'Chinese world' to echo beyond it and offer new thoughts on global issues. Among them: environmental concerns, identities of local languages and cultures, the impact of colonialism on memory, of economic globalization on traditional ways of life, gender and sexuality, etc... The above topics do not necessarily imply a duty to publish so-called 'social activism' novels, but high-quality stories whose aspiration is not simply 'art for art's sake', but a wish to question our daily realities.


    Hence, we hope to introduce the authors we will publish not strictly as 'Taiwanese writers' but as 'global writers with a Taiwanese view on the world.' For example, the French translation of the Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-Yi's THE MAN WITH COMPOUND EYES recently received the French International Insular Book Award. It was the first Taiwanese novel to ever receive such award in France. We hope to promote Taiwanese literature in this same vein: Taiwanese literature should not only interact with 'literature written in Chinese language' or some separate space of 'Asian literature', but must be brought into a 'world literature', where Taiwan can speak to an international audience.


    Among the first texts we have selected, we will publish the queer science fiction novel MEMBRANES by Chi Ta-Wei and a unique literary experiment, the two screenplays written for the cinema classic A City Of Sadness, written by Wu Nien-Jen and Chu T'ien-Wen respectively.


    In the future, we would like to introduce to French-speaking readers a variety of texts, all thematically strong and of the highest literary merit, including novels and short stories by authors such as Badai, Kao Yi-Feng, Lai Hsiang-Yin, Wu Ming-Yi, Lo Yi-Jun, Wuhe, Hung Ling, Chen Hsuë, Chu Yu-Hsun and many more.


    But like in any new literary imprint, we too have encountered some (temporary) obstacles that we have had to overcome.


    Firstly, we face a problem common to all Taiwanese literature in translation, namely a basic lack of media interest when compared to other 'national' literatures, such as those of China, Japan and now Korea. It is therefore important to offer significant translations with an original point of view with respect to Asian literature in general, but also books that can attract the attention of a reader who isn't necessarily attracted by Taiwan itself at first glance. Texts on issues such as ecology, war, memory, sexual identity, the vitality and reinvention of ancient religions and cultures or new technologies seem to us very powerful in this regard.


    For decades, l'Asiathèque Publishing House has been a recognised and respected force in the French publishing industry specialising in texts relating to Asia. But until recent years, L'Asiathèque mostly published scientific and cultural books on the continent, such as works of classical literature and language textbooks, but very few contemporary novels. A challenge for us will be to seduce an audience who is not usually familiar with this kind of material from a publishing house such as L'Asiathèque. Hence the publication of the novel MEMBRANES, which is not only a high-quality work by a wonderful storyteller, but also offers cross readings on original issues. To us, this seems the perfect way to draw in future readers.


    Another challenge we are facing is that of the small number of French translators who are familiar with Taiwanese literature and society and the presence of different Taiwanese languages in literature from the island. This question was of particular pertinence while working on the oeuvre of Kan Yao-Ming, an author we particularly admire. However, our ambition is to work with young and talented translators and we are not afraid to experiment in order to recreate the same multilingual and multicultural textures we find in the original text.


    As for the rights market, since we have only just launched the series and L'Asiathèque is still not considered a publisher of general contemporary literature, it has not been easy to get a place and gain influence in the financial negotiation for the rights to contemporary works with big potential. We hope that the future success of our collection will allow us to simplify these procedures.


    A final problem is of course related to the funding needed to run a project like ours. It is difficult in the early stages to accurately assess the size of our potential readership and any financial investment is a risk. Hopefully, we will be able to access French and Taiwanese cultural grants to help us in this regard.


    But whatever the challenges, we are very excited about the road ahead and we can't wait to introduce to French readers the richness of Taiwanese literature.