ABOUT LATEST BOOKS AUTHORS RESOURCES AWARDS FELLOWSHIP GRANT
  • Sep 05, 2018
    Translation Grant Program, Ministry of Culture, Republic of China (Taiwan)
    By Books from Taiwan

    Books from Taiwan supports the translation of Taiwanese literature into foreign languages with the Translation Grant Program, administered by The Ministry of Culture of Taiwan. The grant is to encourage the publication of translations of Taiwan’s literature, including fiction, non-fiction, picture books and comics, and help Taiwan’s publishing industry to explore non-Chinese international markets.

     

    •    Applicant Eligibility: Foreign publishers (legal persons) legally registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respective countries, or foreign natural persons engaged in translation.


    •    Conditions:
    1. Works translated shall be original works (for example, including fiction, non-fiction, picture books and comics…but anthology is not included) by Taiwanese writers (R.O.C. nationality) in traditional Chinese characters.
    2. Priority is given to works to be translated and published for the first time in a non-Chinese language market.
    3. Applicants are not limited to submitting only one project for funding in each application year; however, the same applicant can only receive funding for up to three projects in any given round of applications.
    4. Projects receiving funding shall have already obtained authorization for translation, and be published within two years starting from the year after application year (published before the end of October).


    •    Funding Items and Amount
    1. The subsidy includes a licensing fee for the rights holder of original work, a translation fee and a production fee.
    2. The maximum funding available for any given project is NT$ 500,000 (including income tax and remittance charges).


    •    Application Period: From September 1 to September 30 every year.
    •    Announcement of successful applications: Before December 15 every year.
    •    Application Method: Please visit the Ministry’s “Books from Taiwan” (BFT) website (http://booksfromtaiwan.tw/), and use the online application system.


    For full details of the Translation Grant Program, please visit
    http://booksfromtaiwan.tw/grant_index.php
    Or contact: books@moc.gov.tw
     

    *Recommended Books for Translation Grant Program: http://bit.ly/2MQvJ84

  • Jul 27, 2018
    Illustrated Children’s Books from Taiwan: The State of the Market at Home and Abroad
    By Books from Taiwan, Kao Ming-Mei ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse

    The Taiwanese market for illustrated children’s titles has long been dominated by works in translation, yet years of productive collaboration between content creators and editors has also resulted in a number of domestic titles that have garnered international attention. Kao Ming-Mei, Editorial Director of Pace Publishing, was kind enough to accept an interview with Books from Taiwan to talk about her experience working in the field.

            Pace Publishing boasts a strong list of domestic children’s titles to accompany their list of works in translation. Books from Taiwan featured two such Taiwanese titles, A Day in the Life of a Lighthouse and A Dinnertime Adventure, in Issues Six and Eight, respectively. Other domestic titles, like The Night Market and The ​Morning market, feature richly definitive aspects of Taiwanese culture.

            After graduating from university with a degree in Russian, Kao Ming-Mei traveled to Japan to pursue graduate study in psychology. She completed a one-year fellowship as a foreign researcher at the International Institute for Children’s Literature in Ōsaka, during which time she researched the development of illustrated children’s literature in Japan as well as the children’s literacy movement. Over the course of her thirty years in the industry, she founded and served as Editor-in-Chief for Bennesse magazine, been Editor-in-Chief for Hsin-Yi Publishing House, and judged several rounds of the Hsin-Yi Children’s Literature Award, all while translating over twenty titles from English and Japanese. She is currently Editorial Director for Pace Publishing, an imprint of Book Republic, and has overseen the production of many prize-winning titles.

     

    BFT: Out of all the domestic children’s titles you’ve read since you were a kid, which has had the deepest impression on you? What have you been reading recently?

     

    I think The Mouse Bride, published by Yuan-Liou in 1992, has left the deepest impression on my memory. The story is smoothly laid out, and the illustrations are very mature. It won a prize at the Catalonia Illustrator’s Fair that year. It’s a wonderful book.

     

    More recently, Chih-Yuan Chen’s Missing You, and The Stone Buddha by Yang Wen-Cheng and Higo have attracted my attention.

     

    What, to your practiced eye, seem to be the unique characteristics of Taiwanese children’s titles? Do you see new trends in content and style happening over the past few years.

     

    Domestic children’s titles have themselves become an increasing trend lately; not only are their numbers growing, their range of content and style is also diversifying significantly, even moving from specifically local concerns to more universalized life experiences. I think part of the reason our authors and illustrators have so much creative energy, and show such willingness to try different things involves our democratized society an increasing number of chances to interact with the outside world. Of course, when compared to content creators in countries with mature children’s book markets, it still seems clear that ours still need more time to explore, learn, and discover their own style.

     

    BFT: You’re a veteran of international book expositions, and are certainly very familiar with the process of international rights sales. When you are meeting with foreign publishers, are there aspects of being on the sell-side that we should understand and learn from?

     

    We slowly learned how to sell rights through the process of buying them. We have already caught up on the technical side of things, like preparing English materials, employing useful pitch techniques during meetings, doing follow-up work, and so on. But these are merely preparatory tools; having good books and a proactive, positive attitude are still the key. Good books give the editor confidence to go into a meeting with her head held high and ready to talk at length. Obviously, whether or not you make the sale depends on the buyer’s requirements, so learning about the other side’s needs and interests is also very important.

     

    BFT: Do you have any interesting stories from your experience interacting with foreign colleagues at meetings or when talking about Taiwanese children’s books?

     

    Speaking from recent memory, I think I would have to note the widespread positive reaction Pace Publishing has gotten everywhere to A Day in the Life of a Lighthouse. The artist depicts a full day in a harbor in vivid, thorough illustrations of boats, dykes, and passersby that show masterful command of light and shade. The seascape at Keelung inspired the art, and even though the book has no text, the similarities between harbors all around the world means that having no words is no obstacle; the common language of images can cross any boundary.

     

    Another story comes from 2001, when Hsin-Yi published Chen Chih-Yuan’s On My Way to Buy Eggs. It’s the story of a little girl called Shau-yu, who goes out to help her father run errands. The streets and alleys she walks through could be called extremely “Taiwan” – the iron-grated windows, the mopeds by the roadside, the sheet metal houses and telephone poles had us worried at first that the scene would be so highly localized that foreign audiences wouldn’t accept it. Yet the English translation was very well received, and even received a mention on Publishers’ Weekly as one of the best children’s books of 2003. Clearly, everyone can relate to a story of a young child wandering aimlessly through the streets alone, and even though the story is clearly set in Taiwan, it can still call up childhood memories for readers all over the world.

     

    BFT: Looking through Pace’s catalogue, one can find everything from children’s stories to non-fiction manga. It seems like Pace is seriously interested in trying new topics, and bringing new reading experiences to the market. If you were to compare publishing domestic titles to publishing titles through translation, where do you find the greatest challenges, and the greatest enjoyment?

     

    The greatest challenge lies in working with the creator to conceptualize and produce an illustrated title that “only we can make.” And I have the most fun working with the author on illustration placement and figuring out the flow of the story. It’s a process that requires good communication and frequent experimentation. Some creators come to the table with a completed story in mind, which they can then easily put onto paper. Yet the vast majority of creators will run into bottlenecks that can be eased with an editor’s help. Sometimes you have to get into it and feel the creator’s frustration, while other times you have to stand a little farther off, and just give him some time. I have to place myself on the high ground so I can alter the process according to the unique characteristics of each creator and each work. “Literature is the symbol of depression,” as Kuriyagawa Hakuson once said, and the creation of an illustrated book is often as tortuous a process as it is enchanting.

     

    BFT: As a book lover and long-time industry veteran, what are your hopes for domestic children’s literature? Are there any new experiments you still want to try?

     

    Pace Publishing’s commitment to trying new content and styles springs from a desire to advance with the times. Society is constantly changing, and we need to keep trying new things and altering our process if we wish to produce work that new generations of children will like. And behind this immutable decision to keep changing are two points of faith that have carried me through all thirty years in children’s book publishing. I believe in developing a child’s sense of the beautiful, and in planting the seeds of truth, goodness, and beauty in their heart. I personally feel that the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty are the greatest goals one can have in life, and that they provide meaning to our existence. Some may find children’s books to be fake, since such beautiful, pure environments can’t possibly exist in the “real world.” But I think that real-world imperfection is the very reason that we should help children assimilate these goals into their value systems as early as possible through literature, that they may become a source of strength as those children grow up. 

     

    As regards my expectations for Taiwanese children’s literature, I hope that our content creators can continue to broaden their vision of the world, and make their stories more layered while still refining the visual artistic aspects of their craft.

     

    BFT: Finally, are there any Taiwanese children’s illustrators or authors whom you’d like to introduce to the rest of the world?

     

    Well, there are really too many of those – every book Pace publishes has my fullest confidence! If I absolutely had to pick one, I suppose I would recommend that everyone read Bei Lynn’s work. She commands a rich store of experience, and shows no fear of trying new things, yet she’s also powerfully self-aware, and can interpret and communicate new stimuli in her own language. She’s a creator who stays true to herself. She’s started to write poetry these past few years, and you can see the texts for her stories are always improving. For instance, if you take the text of Bubu the Frog Loves to Jump on its own and read it aloud, you’ll find a strong rhythm and resonance there. That makes it a new kind of illustrated story, and I really recommend you all read it.

  • Jul 25, 2018
    Graphic documentary in Taiwan: An Interview with Slowork Publishing founder Huang Pei-Shan (II)
    By Books from Taiwan, Huang Pei-Shan ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse

    Not only does Slowork boast a very diverse array of authors, your readership also extends far beyond Taiwan. For instance, The Factory and Halo-Halo Manila have already been published in Chinese, English, and French. Do you have any interesting anecdotes or experiences related to your collaborations with the rest of the world?

     

    One unforgettable detail about The Factory: a large number of readers over fifty years old have told me that there was a time in their lives when “Made in Taiwan” popped up everywhere. It was a milestone of global change. Many products before it were meant to be durable and finely crafted, while “Made in Taiwan” signaled the rise of cheap plastic goods. These readers said they never stopped to think about where Taiwan was or who lived there, but reading the book brought them into the story behind the product – a moving story about real people. Had I refused to classify it as a graphic documentary because it had penguins in it, I would never have had those interactions.

     

    When we exhibited the French edition of Halo-Halo Manila in Angoulême, our first buyer was a ten-year-old girl. Although she’d heard that Naoki Urasawa was having an event right then, she paid no attention; she would rather spend her hard-earned allowance on a copy of Halo-Halo Manila. We felt astounded, and excited. In Taiwan, neither The Factory nor Halo-Halo are seen as comics for children, but we’ve found significant excitement among younger readers in Europe. The discovery should motivate us to consider what might be wrong with Taiwan’s domestic education system.

     

    Recently, we’ve decided to print the second edition of Monsoon in Chinese and English, in hopes of attracting a more global readership. I should say right now that the English version is both printed and translated here because we haven’t yet established a firm foothold in that international market, so international rights are still available to any interested party.

     

    Monsoon is Taiwan’s first magazine of graphic documentary, and the artists featured in Issue 1 come not only from Taiwan, but also from Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia, and Guam.  I hear that the eagerly-awaited second issue, which is in mid-production, will focus on southeast Asia, and includes interviews with and work by Thai artists. Slowork’s books frequently feature southeast Asia; can you talk about Slowork’s relationship to the region?

     

    I’ve been living in borderland spaces between China and southeast Asia since 2009, including several different countries, each with their own local lifestyles. The rich culture of each place and the values of the residents have given me tremendous positive energy – southeast Asia is much, much more than just a tourist destination. Slowork focuses on work from Asia, and southeast Asia in general has historically lacked opportunities to make its many voices heard, so I wanted to try out several possibilities for bringing it to life on paper. It’s a difficult goal to reach, and we are still in the process of exploring. But we’ve had good experiences collaborating with Malaysian Chinese, because our common language has allowed for effective communication. Yet their culture is very, very different from our culture here in Taiwan.

     

    What other new things might we see coming from Monsoon?

     

    Issue 2 will have more collaborative projects in it, with new resources provided by other creators that we’ve managed to turn into really interesting work. We have a project going with the documentary film platform Giloo in which we’ve done texual critiques of documentaries that align with our theme, or used graphic novels like a preview to create the films’ atmosphere, and there’s a QR code at the end that you can scan, then pay to watch the film. Another one of our goals is to make graphic novels be about more than just the book itself.

     

    For the third issue, I’d like to focus more on psychological titles, work that explores internal issues, acceptance, dreams, pressures, and other abstract phenomena. And if we make it to a fourth issue, I’d like to do something involving ethnography, and push the bounds of inquiry to even more distant, less well-known corners of the world. And of course, I’d like to look into the idea of Asian-ness.

     

    What are your hopes for Taiwanese graphic documentary?

     

    I hope that some of the more senior artists can come back, and keep developing alongside their younger colleagues. Nonfiction as a genre relies heavily on lived experience, and while many young artists have already developed a refined visual idiom, it can be too shallow sometimes. And I hope other publishers join in, especially to bring in work from overseas. Slowork is a small house; we only publish a small number of books, and they’re all original creations. So I hope that more people will come together, and bring in both more readers and more artists.

  • Jul 25, 2018
    Graphic documentary in Taiwan: An Interview with Slowork Publishing founder Huang Pei-Shan (I)
    By Books from Taiwan, Huang Pei-Shan ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse

    The sixth and seventh editions of Books from Taiwan each featured a pair of titles from the unique genre of graphic documentary. The Factory and Halo-Halo Manila, showcased in the seventh edition and following on the heels of 80s Diary in Taiwan and Bonjour Angoulême!, are both the work of Slowork Publishing, a house devoted to the promulgation of graphic documentary from Asia. Recently, the house’s founder, Huang Pei-Shan, was kind enough to grant us an interview.


    BFT: Hi, Pei-Shan. Could you start by introducing Slowork Publishing, and tell us about what drove you to establish the business and start producing graphic documentary?

     

    Slowork is a publishing house that specializes in graphic documentary titles. Our books tell the stories of real people and events exclusively through the narrative form of the graphic novel.

     

    I discovered this kind of work when I was studying art in France, sometime around 2008 – biographical graphic novels, graphic novels that described psychological states, or told stories of war or postwar trauma, history, travel, and social issues. They were kind of like documentaries, which I absolutely love, except on paper. When I came back to Asia in 2009, the richness of our life and culture that I felt made it clear to me that my future lay in the “documentary” mode. So I tried a bunch of different things for a few years, and finally settled to work with print and graphic novels. I also decided to take up the editor’s role, not the artist’s, because I have a strong sense of image and narrative, but I just can’t draw. And so Slowork was born.

     

    The Factory first came to life when illustrator Yang Yu-Chi attended the Slowork Workshop on Graphic documentary, and grew into a full-fledged work under your guidance. Can you tell us more about the story this title is telling, and the unique aspects of its artwork? Like, why are the workers portrayed as penguins, and why there’s no text?

     

    This piece integrates the experiences of Yang Yu-Chi’s mother and her fellow factory workers. From the 1970s to the 1990s, Taiwan became factory to the world, producing and assembling products for global export. The country’s economic boom largely rode on the shoulders of these young female factory workers, who raised Yang Yu-Chi and the rest of that younger generation of Taiwanese. But just as those factories once moved from Japan to Taiwan, they moved again in the 90s from Taiwan to the cheaper region of mainland China, and the vast majority of the workers were abandoned by investors because they had insufficient legal protection. They lost their jobs and their retirement. A lot of senior workers like Yu-Chi’s mother who were about to retire from fairly comfortable jobs at international factories were then forced to work in dirtier, lower-paying domestic plants so they could keep feeding their family. Yu-Chi’s work isn’t meant to be an accusation, but rather a thorough description of an entire generation: the book is filled with specific childhood memories, like the young girl’s  mother being unable to afford the doll she made with her own hands, so she would bring remaindered parts home, which her neighbors would assemble. These are the collective experiences of a full two generations of Taiwanese people. They’re the history behind the “Made in Taiwan” stamp.

     

    The Factory was Yang Yu-Chi’s first nonfiction work, and I think the pain and brutality of the story motivated him to find ways to make it softer and less direct. During the workshop, there were discussions of anthropomorphic storytelling, and that inspired him to use penguins. The frozen Antarctic landscape represents the heartlessness of economy and history; it’s a really nice touch. His choice makes the story more resonant, and I think now that those factories are now leaving China in favor of southern and southeast Asia, if you gave a Chinese factory worker this book, it would probably move them. (In point of fact, we were invited to exhibit the work at a show in China just last year.)

     

    There’s an American graphic work called MAUS that also uses different kinds of animals to represent people from different countries. The difference between those characters and Yu-Chi’s penguins is that the penguins don’t speak. If they did, he thinks it would be too anthropomorphic; he wants them to be imagined as symbols, not metaphors. We as readers should imagine penguins as factory workers facing these difficulties, but we need not import their image directly into a Taiwanese context. The text-less silence also fits the story’s somber tone. Creating ambience was never an issue; the problem was how to communicate the facts of the system and the stolen retirement. But Yu-Chi had a brilliant idea: he tied everything together with the image of a calendar.

     

    There are only two instances of text in the entire piece. The first is an introductory poem, commissioned from another writer, which describes the helplessness of our protagonists, who are trapped in this world of factories. The second instance occurs at the very end, in which we describe the specifics of the historical situation with a brief epilogue.

     

    In another interview, you said that nonfiction was your focus at Slowork, while the graphic novel was simply one mode of communication. Can you talk about how you as an editor work with graphic artists to find the right illustrative style to fit content? Have there been memorable moments?

     

    As I’ve said, documenting evidence and telling the truth are my passions. I’ve exposed myself to much more than international graphic documentaries; I’ve watched countless documentaries and art films, and read many different kinds of nonfiction literature. A lot of artists feel trapped by the idea of nonfictive illustration, because they feel like nonfiction writing can be no more than faithful description and narrative. But that’s not the whole picture. So after we’ve found a topic, I frequently have to break open the boxes they work inside, but before I do that, we have to uncover the core idea the artist wants to express. If there’s an event but no idea, we have nothing to talk about. Frequently, the piece’s style is the artist’s style, and that’s rarely under contention. I put more energy into editing the panels, with a particular eye to the coherence of the plot and the strength of artistic expression. It’s a process of constant communication, brainstorming, and providing references to the artist.

     

    When we started working with Yu-Chi on a piece about blindness called Welcome to the Dark Side, we found that one section, which is about Yu-Chi’s own family, was particularly powerful, and so we suggested he move it to the beginning of the work. It’s the story of his grandfather’s gradually going blind while an active duty soldier during the Second World War, a terrifying tale. Yu-Chi is really good at highly illusory and symbolic illustration, and so I suggested he try re-casting the historical battlefield as the site of his grandfather’s fight against his own failing vision. The first few draft editions of the work were too plodding and too bogged down by details, but another round of edits made it tighter and more powerful.

     

    Jimmeh Aitch, creator of Halo-Halo Manila, was selected to be exhibited in the Taiwan pavilion during the 2018 Angoulême International Comics Festival. He made the trip with his fellow artists in January, exhibited his work, and became acquainted with attendees from around the world. I hear he met the French artist David B, and the American artist Derf Backderf. Can you introduce Halo-Halo Manila for us?

     

    Halo-Halo Manila is a collection of five stories that directly communicate Jimmeh’s experiences during a year of teaching in Manila. “A Martial Law Tale” describes the hilarious story of his father-in-law’s accidental arrest; “Dignity on the Street” depicts problems of class and poverty in the city; “Manila Lingo” explores the local linguistic environment, his area of specialization; “Trash Story” is about the absurd trash problem in Manila, and “Metalheads” describes the local heavy metal music scene.

     

    When Jimmeh came back from Angoulême, did he have any particularly affecting stories to share? Did his experiences inspire new ideas in you, as an editor and publisher?

     

    A few publishers said his books were good but too thin, and there were others who said, “I really like this, but you know, it would be impossible to sell a book by a Taiwanese artist about the Philippines in Europe.” In terms of content, I still want to do things that Europeans would never do, so my mind hasn’t been changed. Honestly, a book “by a Taiwanese artist about the Philippines” is hard enough to sell even in Taiwan!

     

    As for length, I’m aware that thicker, wordier volumes are more popular in the West. I remember one time reading a new comic that was a full 250 pages long. I said to the artist, who was French, “This one is way worse than the 90-page comic you published before.” Surprised, he told me that no one had ever said that to him before, because thicker volumes were much more popular. But he admitted that he had spent much more time and effort per page on the short comic than on the new one.

     

    We all know that as long as you’re talented enough and famous enough, subject and length are not a problem. But when you’re not well-known, and you don’t yet have any work on the best-seller lists, editors have to deal with a lot of practical problems. I think that sending Taiwanese artists to Angoulême allowed them to experience that reality for themselves. And when people work harder to market themselves, that’s a good thing.

     

    For my own part, however, I feel that paying too much attention to Western markets is utterly useless. Graphic documentary in the West is heavily guided by text and uses a lot of it. I am trying to develop unique characteristics in our version of it here in Asia before it’s deeply influenced by Western work. Our works may be shorter and more profound, like poetry… simply put, our communication has strengthened my desire to win them over with what we have here. Of course, we have to have strong work in order to do that.

     

  • Apr 19, 2018
    The Angoulême International Comics Festival: Taiwanese Manga’s Gateway to the World
    By Nicolas Wu ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse

    Taiwan’s manga artists have always been a vibrantly creative community, and thanks to the wholehearted support of the Ministry of Culture in recent years, their international visibility has increased. For instance, Taiwan has been offered its own exhibit at the Angoulême International Comics Festival every year since 2012; two years after this began, I had the great pleasure of attending this festival and assisting our artists in the licensing of their work abroad.

    Now in its 45th year, the International Comics Festival has opened every year since 1974, drawing almost two hundred thousand comic book fans to a sleepy little mountain town in France and filling its streets and hotels during the last week of January. What distinguishes the Comics Festival from other book fairs is its de-centralized model: instead of grouping all participants together in a single venue, the exhibitions, activities, and lectures are held in small, temporary venues all around town, including the comics museum, courthouse, church, and municipal government offices. Comic book lovers are thereby invited to take in all the wonderful sights of Angoulême as they go from one event to another.

     

     

    Every year’s conference adopts a different theme, which is then developed into an aesthetic perspective. The 2018 theme was “A Market for Fun,” and adopted the multicolored patterning of a traditional shopping back in its visual makeup. The Taiwan pavilion’s interpretation of this theme drew constant attention from festival-goers. Beginning in 2015, Taiwan’s participating delegation has reserved not only a pavilion space but also a seat in the rights center, in order to promote the international sale of Taiwanese manga rights. My job since that time has been to occupy that seat during the three days the rights center is open and exhibit the best of Taiwanese manga to publishers from France, Italy, Spain, China, Korea and other countries.

     

    The Comics Festival has been a great opportunity for Taiwanese artists to make their mark internationally. Both the young artists Wei Chin and Arwen Huang were listed for the recent Prize for Young Talent (Prix Jeunes Talents), while Liu Chien-Fan became the first Taiwanese artist to win one of the Festival’s major awards when she captured a silver medal in the “Challenge Digital,” a tiered award for digital artists. In addition, more and more Taiwanese artists are finding opportunities through the Angoulême International Comics Festival to sell their work abroad. In recent years, comics by Sean Chuang, Crystal Kung, Chen Wen-Sheng, Chang-Sheng, Ruan Guang-Min, Mickeyman, Zuo Hsuan, and others have been sold to markets like France, Italy, Spain, Korea, and many more. These artists’ works are truly worthy of admiration.

     

    Selling Taiwanese rights abroad is significantly more challenging than marketing French rights to Taiwan or mainland China, of course, because it requires establishing new connections. In the past, our strongest international relationships were with rights managers, who generally operate on the “sell side” of the equation. Yet today I also seek the acquaintance of editors, who are potential buyers. Over the past few years, I have searched for ways to build effective, dependable channels of communication with foreign manga publishers, and on the way have learned much about their expectations for manga art from Taiwan. For instance, foreign publishers want work that is palpably different from Japanese and Korean manga, but not something so rooted in the Taiwanese domestic context that it becomes hard to understand. The most internationally popular Taiwanese manga publications in recent years share common qualities: they feature clear and complete plot structures, their themes carry a degree of universal significance, and their authors are unique and therefore easily recognizable.  Sean Chuang’s 80’s Diary in Taiwan, for instance, invoked common memories from French, Italian, and German publishers through its description of a child’s life in Taiwan. Mickeyman’s The Worst Trip To Europe captured the heart of a Spanish publisher, while French editors have been eager to wait for Chang-Sheng’s Oldman and Ruan Guang-Min’s The Corner Store.

     

     

    Of course, when we talk of selling Taiwanese manga rights, we can’t help but mention the incredibly successful sale of French rights to Rights of Returning in 2017. The work generated significant international attention among European publishers that year, and less than a month after the Festival closed, two French publishers entered a bidding war for the French language rights. In the end, the contest was won by Kana, an imprint of the largest publisher on the European continent. This marked a new high for Taiwanese manga as the first time that a mainstream European publisher would produce a Taiwanese work in translation. It was all far more than we dared to expect before the Festival that year.

     

    ↑ RITES OF RETURNING ↑

     

    In the end, successful exportation of rights abroad relies on the committed efforts of domestic publishers. Neither experience nor personal connections can be built overnight. The hardest part of every undertaking is its beginning, and it appears that sending people to Angoulême is a good place to start.

  • Apr 19, 2018
    “Taiwan’s Great, Just Too Low-Key”: Thai, Indonesian, and Singaporean Translators on the Dilemmas and Opportunities of Taiwanese Cultural Exportation
    By Amber Sheu ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse

    First published on October 30, 2017 by Openbook: 

    https://www.openbook.org.tw/article/p-844

     

    “How do we make Taiwan visible?” is an important question to many Taiwanese. During the Wordwave Festival this past October, a panel of Chinese-language translators from Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand spoke from their experience as translators and cultural ambassadors about the issues and opportunities involved in the exportation of Taiwanese culture.

     

    If I hadn’t known previously that they had come from far away, I doubt I would have been able to tell immediately that the three guests weren’t themselves Taiwanese. Lee Yew Leong (Singapore), Chi Chi Bernardus (Indonesia), and Anurak Kitpaiboonthawee (Thailand) all speak such excellent Chinese, you have to listen hard to discern any semblance of an accent. Lee Yew Leong explained to us that Chinese is actually his mother tongue, one which he lost contact with after traveling to the United States at age sixteen to attend school. Anurak lived with his family in several countries including Taiwan while he was a child, learning much of his Chinese on the street, and beginning to translate and interpret as young as twelve or thirteen.

     

    Chi Chi Bernardus’s connection to Chinese is even more unique. After graduating from high school, she began her college experience in Bandung as a student of Russian. One day, however, she got an unexpected call from her father, who said that her strongly precognitive aunt had received a strong premonition that Chi Chi ought to study Chinese. Though Chi Chi found the circumstances puzzling, she listened to her father’s exhortations re-took the college entrance exam and entered the Chinese language department. Perhaps because of her love for Hong Kong martial arts movies, dubbed in Chinese and subtitled in Indonesian, she did continuously well, and eventually received a scholarship to study in Taiwan. As her relationship with Taiwan developed, she began to read Taiwanese literature, including novels like Chung Yao’s My Fair Princess. That story had just been adapted into a TV series, which gained significant popularity in Indonesia. An Indonesian publisher that wanted to translate the book established contact with Chi Chi, and the deal was done.

     

    Like Chi Chi and My Fair Princess, Lee Yew Leong and Anurak were also drawn to translation by a Taiwanese work. Recalling the time his friend sent him a copy of Hou Wen-Yong’s Stories of a Spoild Brat, Anurak says: “Because there was no one at home to receive the parcel, I had to take a bus to the post office to pick it up. I started reading it on the bus ride home, and some parts were so funny I couldn’t help laughing out loud. The wrapping was covered with stamps, and I was really moved to discover that the postage had cost more than the book itself.” Those were the days before highly developed e-commerce, when one had to travel all the way to Malaysia to buy Chinese-language books. Later, when he began introducing Taiwanese literature to local publishers, Hou Wen-Yong’s collection was among the first to spring to mind. “Ten years later, I still haven’t looked back,” he says with a laugh.

     

    Lee Yew Leong, who is the founding editor of the international literary journal Asymptote, fell in love with Taiwanese literature while studying in America. “A friend recommended several Taiwanese poets to me, and I began translating some of their work. One of those pieces, by Jing Xiang-Hai, became my first published translation.” Not only has Lee translated the work of several poets (including Jing and Chou Meng-Tieh) himself, he has also curated an issue of Asymptote featuring contemporary Taiwanese literature, thereby introducing the works of writers like Wu Heh, Chu Tien-Wen, Li Ang, and others to international audiences.

     

    Lee believes that Taiwan’s marginalization by political and economic forces have kept much of the world from seeing the value of Taiwanese literature. “An American student of Chinese would probably look to translate literature from mainland China, since curiosity about China still runs strong, and American publishers are willing to pay for Booker long-listed authors like Han Han or Yan Lianke. Always a true advocate for Taiwanese literature, Lee states: “Why do I step to the plate for Taiwanese literature? Because so many people are paying attention to China….But if it’s quality literature they’re looking for, they ought to turn their attention to Taiwan.”

     

    Meanwhile Anurak, founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Taiwan-specializing publisher Mangmoom Book, honestly states: “The fact is that the Thai don’t clearly understand Taiwan.” Members of foreign communities frequently have a hard time differentiating between different Sinophone communities, like China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. Though Anurak has done quite well with his published translations of books by Wan Wan and Jimmy Liao, his readers frequently mistake them for Japanese titles. This combined with readers’ hazy understanding of Taiwan has led him to soft-pedal the works’ national background, relying instead on author name recognition and content as selling points.

     

    Anurak summarizes many years of experience in a single observation: “Taiwan is amazing, but Taiwan is also very low-key.” He agrees with Lee Yew Leong that Taiwan’s “low-key” image has a lot to do with its political situation, which keeps many truly valuable aspects of the nation’s culture from being exhibited abroad.

     

    By Chi Chi’s account, the situation in Indonesia is not all that different. “If you ask the average man on the street what his impression is of Taiwan, he’ll probably say ‘business,’ or ‘computers.’ But he won’t have seen much Taiwanese culture, literature, or fine art, and that’s truly a shame.” Chi Chi laments that there are so many excellent Taiwanese movies, works of art, and literary titles that one has to come to Taiwan to find, and both Anurak and Lee Yew Leong agree. Yew Leong emphasizes that individual and popular support for this project is nowhere near enough, and continued and greater support needed to come from the government.

     

    “Books are a rich, complex record. A single piece of dialogue might depict whole cultural transformations across eras, including every aspect of human lifestyles.” Anurak believes that books as media platforms can provide a clear and nuanced answer to the question, “What is Taiwan?” He points to the book The Hospital, a book that captures scenes from every side of Taiwanese life, inspiring in its many fans a desire to visit the island and connect on a deeper level with the images they first found in the text.

     

    Taiwan’s unique historical background fostered a rich national personality, which expresses itself in a tremendous linguistic diversity in its national literature. This complex of differences stands out as forbidding but beautiful in the eye of the translator. Questions about Hokkien, Hakka, and indigenous dialects, along with the classical poetry of Chung Yao and the classical prose of martial arts novels, and even the street slang of Taiwan’s young people bring wry smiles to the panelists’ faces. Most linguistic questions can be answered through search engines or by asking Taiwanese acquaintances, but what about highly contextual political or historical vocabulary? Chi Chi Bernardus offers Sun Hsin-Yu’s Rice Wine Pudding as an example. “When the book says that a group of ‘immigrants’ came to Taiwan between 1949 and 1965, the translator has to consider the perspective and opinions implied by that word choice.” The translator has to rely on her understanding of Taiwanese history, politics, and culture, as well as the habitual standpoints of native Taiwanese readers, as she selects her own perspective from which to translate that word.

     

    Translation is certainly no easy task; even lines of black-and-white text often hide seemingly insoluble problems within. For our panelists, it is a bittersweet task – made bitter through their lonely battle with words and language, sweetened by the opportunity to lose themselves in the literature they love. Learning Chinese allowed them to make contact with Taiwanese literature; their love for that literature allows them to introduce it to the world through translation, and thereby share their answer to “What is Taiwan?” with the rest of the world.

  • Jan 14, 2018
    The Agent’s Battle, the Translator’s Cultivation: Notes on “Secrets of Chinese-to-English Translation: The Arts of Translation and Editing”
    by Chen Yu-Haw ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse

    First published on November 30, 2017 by Readmoo News

    https://news.readmoo.com/2017/11/30/171130-books-from-taiwan-01/

    Once more, the annual Taipei Rights Workshop convened in our capital city. Its introductory event, held at the Yueyue Bookstore, was a lecture and discussion on the translation and sale of Chinese works of literature abroad. Interestingly, both non-Chinese guest speakers (one from Germany, the other from America) discussed their passion for the poetic charm and beauty of Chinese literature in fluent, Beijing-accented Chinese.

     

    From Discovery to Cooperation: The Agent’s Art of the Deal

    “My Chinese is not…particularly good,” stated Lena Petzke, her words chosen with humility and care. Lena came from Germany to China with an undergraduate background in Chinese to get a Master’s degree at Renmin University; she is now an acquisitions editor for Penguin-Random House North Asia, in charge of English translations of Chinese titles.

     

    Having already published the translated works of literary heavyweights like Mo Yan, Bi Feiyu, and Ge Fei, Lena’s primary responsibility is acquisition and rights negotiation: “From title selection, to purchasing rights, to sourcing translation and editing…all the way to critical aspects of communication and manuscript editing.” Lena’s description of her work begins with the search for Chinese titles that might make waves on foreign markets, or that bear canonical literary merit. Yet in her view, the most difficult aspect of selling Chinese literature in translation may very well be achieving proper communication between author, publisher, editor, and translator.

    “[We consider] differences in sentence structure and meaning, along with whether or not to add explanatory text to the translation, and the accuracy of the style….” Simply translating a Chinese novel back to front, sentence-for-sentence will not necessarily make it saleable. The translator may create new orders from language the author wishes to preserve, the source publisher may not agree to small details on the contract, or any number of other situations may arise that require Lena to move repeatedly between author, translator, and editor as a negotiator, like the famed wandering advisors of the Warring States period, who traveled between many royal courts to explain, interpret, and persuade into cooperation.

     

    The Translator’s Challenge: Always the Poetry That Disappears

    According to Lena, the most ubiquitous problem one faces in the course of translation involves communicating the meaning of the source text in language intelligible to an English reader; style, plot, and logic must all be clear. The second speaker, Canaan Morse (translator, editor, and poet, and also English editor-in-chief of Books from Taiwan) also admits that the most basic yet most essential task of translation is exposing readers in the target language to the linguistic context of the original.

    Canaan notes that writing itself is an act of translation, as the author expresses non-lingual ideas and images on the page through writing. Therefore, a secondary transformation of those ideas through translation requires the translator to focus not on re-constructing information but on received context. “A good translation is a text with a shadow; a good translator stands next to and not in front of the author.” Thus the translator is a “servant of two masters,” standing between author and reader, doing her best to understand the needs and intentions of both.

     

    Meanwhile, “the translator has the final word on his own draft.” Canaan explains that “when I find an ambiguity in the draft, I check it against the source text, but I always allow the translator the last word.” His words exemplify his own professional ethics: maintain loyalty to the source text. Even when employing an artist’s creativity to the crafting of the translation, one does not try to overcome or pass the source text, but allows it to say what it has to say.

    Translation’s Final Objective: Expanding the Reader’s Imagination

     

    “Only through translation can we transmit global cultural and artistic knowledge across borders.” Canaan believes that by daring to step beyond a linguistic comfort zone, the literary translator assumes responsibility for cultural development and transmission. Lena expresses a similar passion for her own work, noting: “Crafting books that will expand Western readers’ understanding of Asia is truly a worthwhile endeavor.”

     

    During the discussion section, an audience member asks whether a translator’s experiences living in the homeland of the source language will affect his translation. Both speakers strongly confirmed that this was the case, with Canaan adding: “We’re currently translating the Taiwanese collection A Ga, and if the translator doesn’t understand Taiwanese culture, or can’t understand Hokkien, there’s no way you can bring that flavor out.”

    One of the most popular questions was: among the tens of thousands published every year, how does a particular book get translated, and become an influential presence in a foreign market? To this, Lena smiled mysteriously and replied: “When we see it, we know,” leaving the audience to ponder untold possibilities.

     

  • Jan 14, 2018
    Openbook: A New Force in Literary Reviewing
    by Hsien Jung-Chiu || Translated by Canaan Morse

    The hottest party on the chilly first weekend in December was the Year’s Best Book Award ceremony, organized and hosted by Openbook. Publishers of all generations gathered on and off-stage to celebrate the winners; some old lions of the industry admitted that the news of having won brought them to tears, while some young editors averred it would be a moment they would never forget.

     

    Though Openbook is still a very young digital literary review platform (officially started in February 2017), it has in a few short months attracted a sizeable following of diehard fans, and established significant credit in Taiwanese publishing circles.

     

    Openbook’s Editor-in-Chief, Chou Yue-Ying, once sat at the helm of one of the most influential literary reviewers in the country: The China Times newspaper’s Open Bookliterary review section. In 2016, when the newspaper’s governing body decided to redesign the section and cut its long-standing awards program, Chou’s deep commitment to her work motivated her to resign from the newspaper and strike out on her own. When asked why she felt comfortable leaving a safe position in mainstream media in order to start a money-hungry online project from nothing, Chou responded: “Many readers would justifiably wonder, can’t our society sustain a professional book reviewing platform? Engaging once more in the work of literary reviewing, with a new philosophy and on a different platform, seemed like an absolute necessity to me.”

     

    Obviously, “Openbook” and Open Book look like much the same thing, and the new project does on some levels carry on the spirit of its predecessor, yet it is also much more than just new wine in old bottles. Visitors to the Openbook homepage are greeted with a wide array of options. “OB Shorts,” for instance, stitch together short, clearly written reviews of seven to ten books within a single piece, allowing for a quick-hit style of reading that viewing numbers suggest makes them popular with busy urban readers. Another popular project is called “Monthly Partnered Reading,” and features input not only from authors and publishers, but also from housewives, rock stars, YouTube streamers and more, in a bid to draw out the full diversity of the reading experience. Even author interviews are crafted along unique lines; sometimes they’re held in the gym or in the kitchen, sometimes even with masks on. By changing the boundaries and sometimes poking fun of the format of the author interview, the author’s actual creative spirit finds new and different points of entry into listeners’ imagination.

     

    Most of these new ideas are the brainchildren of Openbook’s Creative Director, the author, publisher and bookstore owner Chen Hsia-Min, who is both passionate about reading and a constant source of creative energy. He and his crack team of writers, makers, and videographers have been bringing readers new surprises for months now. “Our goal is to make content that’s powerful, as well as energetic and vibrant. We want that kind of atmosphere to motivate imaginative reading.”

     

    Beneath this new and highly colorful surface is a vision that is closely attuned to trends in contemporary reading. Chou Yue-Ying states: “In fact, the core message we wish to transmit is that these books and author’s we’re putting out there are worth attending to in contemporary Taiwan.” Chen Hsia-Min emphasizes that “We’re not only looking to give off a youthful vigor; we also want to be closely connected to the times.”

     

    Openbook stands as an excellent example not only of how traditional print publishers have re-invented themselves and their work online as their industry gradually dies; it also shows how an online cultural media outlet can break its way out of a flood of disjoined information, grab the attention of readers, and bring positive energy into their world. Two weeks before the Best Book Awards were announced, they posted this status on Facebook: “We sincerely believe that the choices for this year’s Best Book Awards, taken from a booklist that came together slowly over many long months, will embody the love our world has for reading.”

     

    Truly, the people behind this new, promising project have themselves a tender and unspeakably deep love for reading, too.