Chinese New Year is just around the corner; it’s time to take a break, plop-down on the couch, breathe deeply, and catch up on some quality Chinese literature. Historically, Chinese to English translations have left a lot to be desired, knocked-out by second rate publishing houses, and years behind the curve. Sometimes it takes years for a Chinese work to head west to an reach an English-reading audience. But things have changed, publishing has become more professional, and the general level of translation is far superior to what it once was.
With this in my mind, The World of Chinese has put to together a list of superior list of fiction that we hope will keep you busy of Spring Festival. Our list spans science fiction, historical fiction, thrillers, mysteries, poetry, and, of course, romance. So, go on then. Get reading
Notable Chinese literature published 2013—2014:
1) The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan, (Translator) Ken Liu The Waste Tide depicts an apocalyptic future in Guangdong Province, China. Workers in the province’s dangerous “economic zone” are gnarled cyborgs—humans altered through bioengineering by their Chinese and foreign employers. The plight of the workers, unknown to the rest of the world, leaves them destitute and powerless. The novel paints 2020s China as a torn nation: powerful, but unable to pull its population out of poverty. The Waste Tide won the Chinese Science Fiction Association Nebula Awards. A haunting, yet essential read.
2) Cat Country by Lao She, (Translator) William A. Lyell Originally written in 1932 (way before cats became de facto internet demi-gods), Lao She’s Cat Country was republished by Penguin Classics in 2013. Cat Country, considered one of China’s earliest science-fiction novels, takes place on a planet inhibited by cats—a unique representation of 1930s China. Like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Cat Country satirically analyzes a dystopian future through powerful fable.
3) Dark Prospects Series by Xu Lei, (Translator) Gabriel Ascher
The first volume in Xu Lei’s thriller series takes place during China’s Cultural Revolution. A group of prospectors from the People’s Liberation Army enter a mysterious cave in search of rare minerals, only to become embroiled in terror and government secrets. To cure your zombie apocalypse fever, also check out Xu Lei’s Cavern of the Blood Zombies. Dark and twisted tales.
4) Mr. Ma and Son by Lao She, (Translator) William A. Lyell
Another of Lao She’s historical classics, Mr. Ma and Son made a reappearance in 2013. Immigrants from Peking, China, Mr. Ma and his son, Ma Wei, run an antiques shop in London. Following the duo through daily life, Mr. Ma and Son offers a compelling look into the complexities of immigrant culture, not to mention a wider look at Sino-British relations.
5) The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan: More Stories of China by Zhu Wen, (Translator) Julia Lovell Zhu Wen’s series of short stories are full of troublesome ex-girlfriends, stagnant careers, cynical murders, gambling addicts, friendship, and other bits and bobs of life. Good Reads describe the author as “as a fearless commentator on human nature and contemporary China.”
6) For a Song and A Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey through a Chinese Prison by Liao Yiwu, (Translator) Wenguang Huang Winner of the 2012 German Book Trade Peace Prize for empowering the disenfranchised through poetry and prose, Liao Yiwu continues his battle against political oppression through For a Song and a Hundred Songs. Yiwu’s collection of poems reflects on the four years he spent in prison, after using poetry to express his outrage at the outcome of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. The moving words of a poet dissident.
7) Wind Says Bai Hua, (Translator) Fiona Sze-Lorrain Wind Says is a collection of Bai Hua’s poetic work from the mid-80s through to the 2000s. Known for his post-obscure style, his sparse poetry is a staple of contemporary Chinese poetry.
8) Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian, (Translator) Bruce Humes The Last Quarter of the Moon, an environmental novel combined with a twist of history, follows an unidentified woman of the Evenki people. Set in the 1930s, the lives of the nomadic people turn to upheaval, as the Japanese army invades China. The ups and downs of the woman’s life paint a picture of a dying culture in an enthralling and poignant manner.
9) Tongwan City by Gao Jiangun, (Translator) Eric Mu Tongwan City is reportedly the last novel of Gaa Jiangun, the deputy chair of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. Tongwancheng (unite all nations) or Tongwan City is the legacy of the ancient Chinese legend, the Hun warrior Helian Bobo. Bobo’s story is told in parallel to another legend, Kumarajiva, a Buddhist monk. Together the stories create a vision of an ancient struggle to unite China in the 16th century. A unique re-imagining of history.
Ready to pre-order for 2014:
10) Decoded by Jia Mai, (Translator) Olivia Milburn, and Christopher Payne Jia Mai debuted as a best-selling author when Decoded hit the shelves in China. The novel’s protagonist, Rong Jinzhen, is an autistic math genius and cryptologist. He enters a world of mystery and betrayal as he attempts to solve the Purple Code. Decoded is expected in March, 2014.
So, that’s it folks. Some of the finest books to be released over the last 12 months. Should be enough to keep you busy over the upcoming holiday.