Chinese Authors in Turkish: Obligatory Pretty Face, Nobel Stamp of Approval

Çin'in IncisiSince I arrived in Turkey in mid-June 2013 and resided in Ankara, Antalya and now Istanbul, I’ve seen 3—yes, 3—contemporary novels by Chinese authors in Turkish translation on bookstore shelves. Mind you, 2 of them I saw just a few weeks ago . . . and I go book-shopping at least once a week.

They are Mo Yan’s Kırmızı Darı Tarlaları (Red Sorghum), Anchee Min’s Çin’in Icisi (Pearl of China) and—just out—Tie Ning’s Yıkanan Kadınlar (The Bathing Women).

Based on my “comprehensive” market research, it appears that there are two packaging elements essential to cracking the Turkish market. The first is the mandatory oriental female visage showing at least the lips.

The other is the mention of the Nobel Prize in large type, on all 3 book covers (front or back), as misleading as it might be. Granted, Mo Yan is a Nobel Laureate, though many readers are unaware that the prize is awarded for a lifetime of writing, not for a particular novel. But Tie Ning’s cover quotes Japan’s Kenzaburō—himself a Nobel Laureate, we mustn’t forget—about the novel, while Anchee Min’s perhaps more shamelessly flashes the brand by reminding us that the subject of the work, Pearl Buck, was a recipient.

But that’s not to say that there are only three Chinese novels now available in Turkish. For a more comprehensive list of modern Chinese fiction available in Turkish (as of 1Q 2014), see below:

Ai Mi (艾米)

Gao Xingjian (高行健)

Jiang Rong (姜戎)

  • 狼图腾 : Wolf  Totem / Kurt Totemi (Published 2013)

Mo Yan (莫言)

  • 红高粱家族 : Red Sorghum / Kızıl Darı Tarlaları (First of the Nobel Prize winner’s novels to be translated into Turkish. From the Chinese. Published 2013.)
  • 丰乳肥臀 : Big Breasts and Wide Hips / No Turkish title yet. (To launch in May 2014.)

Su Tong (苏童)

Tie Ning (铁凝)

Wang Gang (王刚)

Zhang Jie (张洁)

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