LOS ANGELES — I’d be hard pressed to name a single contemporary Chinese literary writer. Yu Jie, who made headlines recently after leaving China in light of increased pressure and mistreatment from the state, is certainly one of the most prominent names in the West. But Chinese writers, especially younger ones, seem to escape attention outside China. This is likely to the language gap, which is particularly pronounced when dealing with high literary language.
So I was happy to hear about Pathlight magazine, an English-language literary magazine that aims to bring contemporary Chinese literature into the English-speaking world. Produced by Paper Republic and People’s Literature Magazine (人民文学杂志), it features translations of contemporary writers in fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Shanghai-based arts writer Rachel Marsden’s recent post turned me on to the magazine. She took some time to interview English-language managing editor Alice Xin Liu, who gave a lecture with Paper Republic founder Eric Abrahamsen recently at Shanghai’s Royal Asiatic Society. In addition to identifying the language gap as a significant barrier to learning about Chinese literature, Liu sheds light on the challenges publishers face in finding writers born after the Cultural Revolution:
What they should want are the generation who are getting into their 30s, born after the Cultural Revolution so they have a different perspective, but it’s hard to find as they are not well know … it is hard to give them a name … such as writer Di An. It is also logistically hard to get hold of writers, as some don’t respond to emails or are busy with “official duties.”
Indeed, Marsden’s blog also points to good news: the second edition of Pathlight, which is being prepared for the 2012 London Book Conference, will also be available in electronic format for free. For now, distribution is limited, but the first edition of Pathlight can be purchased from Amazon.cn for 40 yuan, or just under $10.