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  • Malaysian-Chinese Literature in Taiwan (II)
    Jun 15, 2020 / By Woo Kam-Loon ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read Previous Part: Malaysian-Chinese Literature in Taiwan (I)

    Like Lee Yung Ping (李永平), Zhang Guixing (張貴興) is also from Borneo and rose to fame in Taiwan’s literary scene with his novel Capturing the Tiger. He developed his own distinct style, as evident in Herds of Elephants (published in Japanese by Jimbun Shoin) and The Primate Cup, which were both sensations in Taiwanese literary circles and earned him notoriety far and wide. Published in 2018, Wild Boars Cross the River blends history, legend and folklore to tell the story of an agonising period in Sarawak history. In Taiwan, it has been hailed as one of the best novels in recent years and went on to win the Golden Tripod Award, Taiwan Literature Award, China Times Open Book Award, and sell French rights!

    Wild Boars Cross the River

    Wild Boars Cross the River

    Ng Kim Chew (黃錦樹), whose titles include Lightless and Dreams, Pigs, and Dawn (published in Japanese by Jimbun Shoin), has attracted attention for his courage to experiment with style and tackle challenging subject-matters. He has won numerous literary prizes and his works From Island to Island, Memorandums of the South Seas People's Republic, Fish and Rain explore national Malaysian-Chinese political disputes.

    Lightless

    Li Zishu (黎紫書) immediately became a sensation when “Maggot Nightmare” was published, and her short story collections Gateway to Heaven, Wild Buddha, The Years of Remembrance portray Malaysian-Chinese families, ethnicity and nationality using magical realism and collective memory. Her new work Through Customs and Places elegantly tells the story of a city and a blind girl, it contemplates the fates of ethnically Chinese people with low social status in Malaysian society and how they flow like a river through the country’s small towns. 

    Elsewhere, Ho Sok Fong’s (賀淑芳) story “Never Mention It Again” touches on the taboo subject of conflict between religion and Malaysian-Chinese shamans, Maze Carpet and Lake Like a Mirror concisely convey in-depth female perspectives on desire, society and religion. Lake Like a Mirror was translated into English and published by Granta Books in the UK and Two Lines Press in the US.

    After being subjected to colonial rule by the West from Portugal, the Netherlands and Great Britain, as well as three years and eight months under Japanese rule, Malaysia found that the various segregation policies implemented by the colonising forces had caused conflict between each of the main ethnic groups. Clashes had arisen following independence, while at the same time the Malaysian government was facing military challenges from Malay, Islamic and Indian forces, among others.

    Malaysia sits on the equator, with its hot, humid climate and rubber plantations, oil palm fields and tropical rainforest. Although it has gone from being a colony to a post-colonial state, the Malay, Indian, Malaysian-Chinese and indigenous populations each face their own set of conflicts involving social status, class, wealth, politics, religion and language, all caused by deep historical wounds and memories. Their unique stories are theirs alone, and as the visibility of Malaysian-Chinese literature overseas continues to increase we can look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

  • Censorship, the Rural-Urban Divide, and We-media Integration: The State of Reading in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
    Sep 24, 2019 / By Lin Hsuan-Wei (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse

    While the Taiwanese government’s commitment to a “South Bound Policy” has survived two electoral cycles without wavering, its plans for how to advance that focus and invite deeper cooperation with South and Southeast Asian nations are far from complete. By contrast, certain private and popular interests have been executing their own campaigns in Southeast Asia for several years already. This year the summer session Taipei Rights Workshop for publishing and rights professionals, organized by the Grayhawk Agency, invited Phan Thanh Lan (Vietnam), Fidyastria Saspida (Indonesia), and Jureeporn Somart (Thailand) to share their understanding of current trends in reading and publishing in South Asia with audience members at the Brilliant Time Bookstore, a well-known local purveyor of  Southeast Asian literature in its original languages and in translation.

     

    An Up-and-Coming Book Market

    Phan Thanh Lan works for Kim Dong, Vietnam’s largest publisher of manga and children’s literature. Founded in 1957, they are responsible for many of the titles that Vietnamese readers grew up with. According to Phan Thanh Lan, Vietnam represents a growth market for the publishing industry. The majority of its 95 million citizens are young, capable members of a burgeoning work force currently driving fast economic development. Unlike in Taiwan, Vietnam’s publishing industry is split between cultural companies and publishing houses; when the former wish to publish a book, they must first acquire a permit via the latter. About sixty-four domestic publishing houses and a multitude of culture companies operate in Vietnam today, with at least one publishing house in almost every province. Educational publishing accounts for a dominating 75% of the market, a testament to the influence of the nation’s school enrollment and testing system. Given annual sales numbers, Phan Thanh Lan estimates that the average Vietnamese citizen reads about four books a year. Meanwhile, children’s publishing now stands at a rising 10% of the total market, a trend she attributes to increased care on the part of Vietnamese parents for their children’s early education.

    One significant blemish on this otherwise sunny picture is the slow growth of digital publishing. To date, only twelve domestic publishers have entered the digital publishing space, many fewer than expected. Disparities in literacy between rural and urban centers have made publishing much less profitable in the countryside. Moreover, the nation’s Communist regime mandates that all books undergo central government censorship before publication, leading to situations in which, according to her, “even a fully finished book project can become unpublishable.” Meanwhile, bootleg publishing remains rampant, and continues to escape government control.

    Kim Dong publishes an average of three hundred new titles every year, including a significant number of Taiwanese works in translation. Yet cooperation is not always easy, as deals can get hung up on issues like licensing and list prices. Phan Thanh Lan notes that, for instance, while Jimmy Liao’s children’s titles are extremely popular in Vietnam, Taiwanese publishers worry that the lower retail prices of the same books in Vietnam will end up cannibalizing sales in Taiwan.

     

    Do Indonesians Really Not Like to Read?

    Fidyastria Saspida is an editor at Elex, a multimedia company founded in 1985 that has been a paragon of modernization in the publishing industry: In 2001, Elex set up a commercial products department to sell the literacy cards that had become extremely popular among pre-school children, and in 2016, the company started a IP department in order to stay at the cusp of digital publishing. Elex has published a total of nearly twenty thousand titles to date, with an average of 150 new titles emerging each month in every theme and market segment – the new biography of Jack Ma, for instance, was extremely popular with their readers. This trip to Taiwan has left Fidyastria with the impression that Taiwan’s reading environment is not so different from Indonesia’s. Both readerships share a love for genres such as romance and fantasy, leading Fidyastria to conclude that “We ought to have a lot of room for cooperation!” Elex publishes domestic manga as well as translated titles; religious tracts, owing to the strength of Indonesia’s Islamic population, are also quite popular. Furthermore, Elex has capitalized on a recent surge in international tourism to Indonesia by partnering with the Ministry of Tourism to produce guidebooks and other related titles.

    “A lot of people say, ‘Indonesians don’t read books, so the market isn’t good,’ but if the market weren’t good, how could we do so well?” She introduces audience members to a number of popular domestic writing and publishing events, including the Bali Readers and Writers Festival, a five-day event on the island of Bali that draws huge crowds of famous authors and enthusiastic readers; it’s “the best reader’s festival in the world,” Fidyastria avers. This year, representatives from Taiwan also attended. One widely-anticipated feature of the festival is a one- to two-day book sale in which prices drop as low as 70% off.

    But the Indonesian book market is also not without its difficulties. Since 2015, about half the nation’s bookstores have closed. The majority of publishers are located in Jakarta, the largest city on the island of Java, which means that readers on more remote islands usually have to rely on online retailers to buy books. Significant wealth gaps between the cities and countryside also create significant instability and inequality in the book market, despite its large size. Children’s literature remains the only dependable genre from a sales perspective, though other facets of the market still have room to develop.

     

    Thailand: Facing a Revolution in Publishing Practice

    Jureeporn Somart works for SE-ED Publishing House, a business whose name refers to science, engineering, and education. Founded by engineers in 1974, it publishes very popular titles in the hard and natural sciences, as well as in computer science. The business’s crown jewels are its dictionaries, which are the most trusted and best-selling in the country. The Thai people love learning foreign languages, and SE-ED’s TOIEC and English-learning titles are also hot commodities. “After all, these are the kind of books that can get you a raise,” Jureeporn notes.

    Jureeporn reports that over the last few years, Thai publishers have begun focusing on their online readership communities. Bricks-and-mortar bookstores, no longer the main vehicle for sales, have become more like exhibition spaces. Publishers have also warmed up to social media as a tool for understanding reader’s appetites more quickly and completely. “Tastes and reading habits are changing,” Jureeporn says. While DIY titles and “boy-love” romances have become extremely popular in recent years, she observes, hard-copy works on cooking, cosmetics, and nutrition have fallen off sharply as readers have turned to online outlets for that sort of information. “They believe the tips and tricks that internet celebrities teach them,” and therefore are less willing to buy printed books. SE-ED caught onto the global social media craze long ago. They encourage online authors to publish previews of their work in advance, so that customers may pre-order titles, which the publisher will then print and distribute according to demand. Jureeporn believes that traditional content and digital content can exist symbiotically; readers still want to feel the weight of a book in their hands, while digital publishing gives them more choices and a different method of reading.

  • The Pivot South Translation and Publishing Program Application Guidelines
    Oct 15, 2018 / By Books from Taiwan

    * Period of Application: 15th October~15th November 2018

    * How to apply: The online system used in 2017 has expired. Please send your application forms and documents to books@moc.gov.tw.

    * The Pivot South Translation and Publishing Program Application Guidelineshttps://goo.gl/PifbEW

    * 南向翻譯及出版交流補助作業要點https://goo.gl/1gPrgX

    * For general inquiries, please contact books@moc.gov.tw.

     

    The Ministry of Culture (hereinafter referred to as “the Ministry”) has formulated these guidelines to encourage the publication of translations of Taiwan’s literature, in the territories of South Asia, Southeast Asia and Australasia (hereinafter referred to as the Pivot South nations), as well as to fund exchange trips for publishers and the publication of original titles that deal with the cultures of Taiwan and the Pivot South nations, as well as the topic of cultural exchange between them.


    * South Asia, Southeast Asia and Australasia will be taken to mean: Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Australia and New Zealand.


    * The program is split into three different strands, which are:
    1.    Translation and Publication Grant Program
          a.    The translation, publication and marketing of Taiwanese literature (including fiction, non-fiction, illustrated titles and anthologies) in the Pivot South nations.
          b.    The translation into Chinese (Complex characters), publication and marketing of literature from the Pivot South nations (including fiction, non-fiction, illustrated titles and anthologies) in Taiwan.
    2.    Publisher Exchange Program
          Fund exchanges and cooperation activities between publishers in Taiwan and the aforementioned Pivot South nations.
    3.    Original Book Program
          Fund the publication of original titles yet to be published on the topics of Taiwan, the cultures of the Pivot South nations or cultural exchanges. Material deemed unsuitable for minors will not be accepted.


    * Applicant Eligibility:
    1.    Citizens of the Republic of China (Taiwan) or civic organizations and legal persons registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
    2.    Citizens of the aforementioned Pivot South nations or civic organizations and legal persons registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respected country.

    * Conditions:
    1.     Translation and Publishing Grant Program
          a.    Works translated shall be original works by Taiwanese writers (R.O.C. nationality) in written in any of the languages native to Taiwan, or else be by writers from the Pivot South nations written in their local language.
          b.    All Chinese content must be in Complex characters.
          c.    All translations must be done directly between the relevant Taiwanese and Pivot South languages, no relay translations will be accepted.
          d.    Priority is given to works to be translated and published for the first time in Taiwan or the relevant Pivot South nation.
          e.    Projects receiving funding shall have already obtained authorization for translation, and be published within two years from the signature of a letter of agreement.

    2.    Publisher Exchange Program
          a.    Citizens of the Republic of China (R.O.C) selected to take part in an exchange abroad must have completed their military service in accordance with laws of the Republic of China and must not have any restrictions upon their travel abroad.
          b.    Citizens of the Pivot South nations must be citizens of said territories and have completed any military service according to the laws of their country of citizenship where applicable and have no travel restrictions in place.
          c.    Applications must be received according to these guidelines before the published deadline and show clear evidence of professional experience in the field of publishing.
          d.     “Exchange and cooperation” refers to events related to translation, editing, rights selling and other publishing related activities such as book fairs, author seminars and forum etc.
          e.    The period for staying abroad or coming to Taiwan shall not exceed six months.

    3.    Original Book Program
          a.     The subsidy will fund original projects that are yet to be published, with priority given to titles on the subjects of Taiwan, the cultures of the Pivot South nations or else cultural exchanges.
          b.     Projects receiving funding shall be published in one of the Pivot South nations within two years from the signature of a letter of agreement.

     

    * Funding Items and Amount
    1.    Translation and Publishing Grant Program
          a.    The maximum funding available for any given project is NT$ 500,000 (including income tax and remittance charges).
          b.    The funding can cover: a licensing fee for the rights holder of the original work, a translation fee, funds to cover production and marketing and promotion costs (not including salary or equipment purchase costs).

    2.    Publisher Exchange Program
          a.    The maximum funding available for any given project is NT$ 500,000 (including income tax and remittance charges).
          b.    The funding can cover: transportation, living and accommodation expenses, insurance and marketing and promotion costs. (not including salary or equipment purchase costs).

    3.    Original Book Program
          a.    The maximum funding available for any given work is NT$ 500,000 (including income tax and remittance charges). For a series, the funding will be multiplied by the number of books in the series, but total funding in that case will be limited to NT$ 2,000,000 (including income tax and remittance charges).
          b.    The funding can cover: Production costs, translation and marketing and promotion costs (not including salary or equipment purchase costs).

    * Special projects: For projects of particular significance and scope that involve exceptional creativity, deep-level cooperation and concrete outcomes, and provided that they help promote the work of the department, the Ministry will enter into a special agreement. In such cases, the actors involved, the nature of the project and the application period will not be bound by articles four to six, nor articles eight and nine.


    * Principles:
    1.    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.
    2.    For those applying under article III section 1, the maximum number of projects that will be accepted to the Translation Grant Program and the Pivot South Publishing Program shall be limited to three.
    3.    Those applying under article III section 2 for a second year running will be prohibited from applying the next year and for three years in total.

  • Taipei Rights Workshop, Summer 2017 Edition
    Jul 24, 2017 / by Books from Taiwan

    During the last week of June, we welcomed a group of friends from Thailand and Vietnam along with the steaming hot summer air. In cooperation with Books from Taiwan, Taiwanese publishers grasped this rare chance to impress our guests with interesting stories and beautifully made books.