London Book Fair provides platform for Chinese books to the West

China 24

A recent event in London provided a unique opportunity for China: to introduce its books abroad. Chinese books are growing in popularity worldwide.

But, getting them to potential international readers can be a challenge.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo reports.

For book lovers, the annual London Book Fair is a dream – It’s one of the largest publishing events in the world.

China’s exhibitors use it as a platform to showcase China to the world.

One of their main features is the second volume of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book on governance.

“As soon as I arrived here, I saw the scene. I am interested in Chinese politics in general. I studied political science,” said Jacopo Marcomeni, who attended the fair.

The book is a collection of President Xi’s speeches and letters, providing insight into the thoughts of the Chinese leader.

“This is the first time the second volume of President Xi Jinping’s book is shown at the London Book Fair,” Hu Kaimin, associate editor-in-chief of Foreign Languages Press said. ” It attracts the interest of many international publishers and many of them are discussing publication, including Italy, the UK and other European countries. It also attracts the interest of many readers.”

And it’s not just politics.

The fair also included a best-selling martial arts novel, “Legends of the Condor Heroes” by Jin Yong. 

But the challenge is to translate the novels into other languages and still maintain the integrity of the Chinese language.

“There is a lot of specialist vocabulary when it comes to martial arts and lots of things to do with Chinese medicine and like the acupuncture points and all these kind of things,” said Anna Holmwood, a translator. “So trying to find a way to convey all that in English without being too technical, too boring that was difficult but fun.”

Because of that complexity, many famous Chinese works are hardly known in the West.

“Translating Chinese literature into English has to be more dependent on Western scholars and sinologists,” Li Weichang, a critic with the Shanghai Writers Association said. “We have an understanding that translators who understand our language can do the work, but it has a long way to go. We should have more Chinese translators, which is another way to spread Chinese stories to the world.”

One of those translators is Richard Kong, a Chinese-American student from the University of Maryland.  He and his team translate Chinese fantasy novels, often thousands of pages long, into English.  They offer them on his website “Gravity Tales” for free.  Kong says it gets 2.5 million daily views from readers from all over the world, one third from the U.S.

“There’s obviously a lot that we don’t understand about the Chinese, and the Chinese don’t understand about us, and hopefully, with our translations, we can get talk started,” said Kong.