Beijing Oct 19-20 Event: First Int’l Symposium on Uyghur Folk Dastan (داستان) in China

Event: First Int’l Symposium on Uyghur Folk Dastan in China (首届中国维吾尔族民间达斯坦国际学术研讨会)

Venue: 北京市海淀区三里河路7号 新疆维吾尔自治区政府驻京办事处1号楼

Sponsors: CASS Institute of Ethnic Literature (中国社会科学院民族文学研究所), Xinjiang Federation of Literary and Art Circles (新疆维吾尔自治区文学艺术界联)

Organizer: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Folklore Association (新疆维吾尔自治区民间文艺家协会)

Attendees: 50 dastan ( داستان , 达斯坦, destanı) scholars from China, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey


Background reading:

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015: China’s Culture of Censorship in the Limelight

Oct 17 Update

纽约时报中文网:美国 12 家出版商集体对中国审查说不

* * * * *

Oct 16 2015

In Phil Collins and Ai Weiwei Make Waves at Frankfurt Book Fair, we learn that China’s repugnant censorship practices are generating some real pushback:

The fair also saw China accepted as the newest member of the International Publishers Association – a move that was swiftly followed by the announcement of a new pledge from Pen American Center. Signed by 12 US publishers, it is intended to address censorship in Chinese translations of books by foreign authors.

The pledge (PDF) says that many authors are unaware cuts are made to their work to comply with the Chinese government’s censorship regime, pointing to Andrew Solomon, who only discovered that sections from his book The Noonday Demon, a study of depression which includes details of his life as a gay man, had been cut from the Chinese edition after Pen compared the two versions years after its release.

The 12 publishers, which include Hachette, Macmillan and Penguin Random House, pledged to “require that any cuts or changes to the text must be approved by the author”, and to “work only with trusted Chinese publishing partners who will communicate openly regarding censorship issues”.

See also Pro-active Guide for Foreign Scribes: How to Deal with Censorship of Your Writing in Xi Dada’s China for a summary of Pen America’s damning report released in May 2015, Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015: Okay, Iran’s Not Coming – but What about China’s Liao Yiwu?

Predictably, Iran has thrown a hissy-fit — its arch-nemesis author Salman Rushdie will be giving the opening speechAuthor Liao Yiwu — and announced it is boycotting the Frankfurt Book Fair that opens today (Boycott).

But what about dissident author Liao Yiwu (廖亦武), who was barred by the Chinese Stasi from flying to Germany for the 2009 fair, and has since been smuggled out of the People’s Republic via Yunnan and Vietnam, and spirited into Germany, where he now lives and writes in Berlin?

I’ve searched the book fair site and googled the web, but found no news indicating he will be at the fair, at least as a speaker or member of a forum, etc.

Regardless, he has made the most of his time in Germany (but has reportedly not applied for political asylum), and several of his works are now available in German (

  • Fräulein Hallo und der Bauernkaiser: Chinas Gesellschaft von unten (中國底層訪談錄)
  • Für ein Lied und hundert Lieder: Ein Zeugenbericht aus chinesischen Gefängnissen (我的證詞)
  • Die Kugel und das Opium: Leben und Tod am Platz des Himmlischen Friedens (子彈鴉片— —天安門大屠殺的生死故事)
  • Die Dongdong-Tänzerin und der Sichuan-Koch: Geschichten aus der chinesischen Wirklichkeit (洞洞舞女和川菜廚子)
  • Gott ist rot: Geschichten aus dem Untergrund – Verfolgte Christen in China (上帝是紅色的)

See also How Publishers Deal with Politically Persecuted Authors, just published at Deutsche Welle, for info on the situation in countries such as Iran, Egypt and China.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015: China-related Events (Oct 14-18)

Leuchtspur: German-language mook for Chinese Literature in Translation

Date/time: 13:00-14:00 on Friday Oct 16
Venue: 5.1 A128, Frankfurt Book Fair
Participants: Gong Yingxin, Martin Winter, Maja Linnemann, Martina Hasse

Leuchtspur, the youngest sibling of English language Pathlight magazine, is a literature-mook with the aim of presenting the best new Chinese literature and poetry in German translation. Gong Yingxin, director of the German Book Information Center Beijing, talks to translators and the chief editor about the translation process, objectives and potential readership.


The Chinese are coming: Exploring the longest border in the world (panel)

Date/time: 10.30 am–11.30 pm, Sunday Oct 18
Venue: Weltempfang – Stage 3.1 L25

On Russia’s far-eastern periphery the mood is downbeat. Many people feel neglected by Moscow and are leaving their homes. Meanwhile, ever more people are moving in from China. The “Border Crossers” programme of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin gave its support to authors who travelled this border region. Three of those border crossers now discuss this geographical area where the cards are being reshuffled.

Participants: Sören Urbansky, academic officer at the faculty for Russian and Asian studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich Olaf Kühl (Berlin), translator to German from Polish and Russian; advisor on Russian affairs to the mayor of Berlin; author; most recent work: “Der wahre Sohn” (Rowohlt 2013; “The True Son”, not available in English translation); Christine Hamel (Munich), author; journalist with special focus on Russia; and chaired by Jenny Friedrich-Freksa, editor-in-chief of the magazine “Kulturaustausch.”

Ethnic ChinaLit Quote the Week: Yan Lianke on the Chinese Village & Garbage Dumps


Writer Yan Lianke (閻連科) in a recent interview with the New York Times’ nytStyle, 農村就像一個開滿鮮花的垃圾場.

Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Laureate: China Media’s Initial Reactions

Oct 20 Update

Booming Sales of Alexievich’s Works:

State Media Attributes them to China’s “Nobel Complex”

Oct 12 Update

Man Asian Literary Prize winner Bi Feiyu praises Alexievich and her brand of non-fiction in an interview with Yangzi Evening News毕飞宇:今年的诺奖不是一个冷门 . But he does not cite any current practitioners of oral history or investigative journalism in China.

Oct 10 Post

Given China’s Nobel complex, it’s always interesting to see how the media reports on the newest winners. Year afterSvetlana Alexievich year, those trouble-makers in Stockholm put the spotlight on the wrong sort of people, such as China’s own Liu Xiaobo (now serving time in a Chinese prison), Gao Xingjian — the China-born-and-raised author the state refuses to recognize as Chinese — and foreigners such as dissident writer Herta Müller, who wrote about the gulags.

So what is China’s media saying about Belarus’ 斯韦特兰娜·阿列克谢耶维奇 (Svetlana Alexievich)? It’s still early days, and we can expect more coverage and commentary soon. But that’s what makes the initial pronouncements such good fun; the state’s cultural spin doctors aren’t yet sure how politically correct — or incorrect — she is.

Cankao Xiaoxi (参考消息), Xinhua’s popular daily digest of translated international news that generally sells out on newsstands all over China by early afternoon, takes a cautious “smorgasbord” approach: It has run short excerpts from four multinational press agencies (四篇的原文). This allows it to create an impression of variety while deleting the (potentially troubling) opinions that one generally finds in a longer essay from the New York Times or the Financial Times, for instance.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the exact same AFP piece on Alexievich’s award that appeared in the Oct 9 edition of Cankao Xiaoxi, but variations on it were widely published, such as here in the Singapore Times Everywhere I’ve seen it online in English, the AFP news item contains this sentence or something very similar:

But her books, controversially written in Russian, are not published in her home country, long ruled by authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, amid what the author has described as “a creeping censorship”.

Through a bit of judicious editing, the Cankao Xiaoxi version implies that her work has not been published in Belarus simply because she wrote it in Russian, rather than her critical approach to Soviet history. The Chinese reader sees only the words that I have not struck out: [Read more…]

Ethnic ChinaLit Excerpt of the Week: The Nightjar at Dusk (黄昏夜莺)

So now the escapee nightjar and I were conspirators. I had to stay patient and play my part in its plot.

We stood a while longer, though of course the urgent call did not sound.

But the boy stood there motionless, gazing up at the spot where the bird had once perched. He already had what a hunter needs most, patience.

My feet were growing numb and I, at least, knew there was no point in waiting further.

“Maybe it’s gone,” I said, gently breaking the silence.

He murmured assent and lowered his head, then when I said nothing went back to watching. It’s a battle of endurance sometimes, to see who can be most patient. I was happy to lose.

“I didn’t see it fly off,” he said, unwilling to give up.

“Maybe it was too quick. It’s too dark to see.” I had to put it like that, or risk insulting him.

“Can’t have.” He wasn’t happy about it, but knew there was no hope.

“What kind of bird was it, anyway?”

“A jokjok.”

I could tell he had never heard this Evenki word before. He had so little of our traditional knowledge, our language. He spoke even less than I did.

Much of our old ways will be lost forever with the passing away of our old folk.


Extract from The Nightjar at Dusk, Pathlight Spring 2015 (p 28), by Gerelchimig Blackcrane (格日勒其木格・黒鶴)


Pathlight Spring 2015: A Handful of Pieces by Mongolian and Xinjiang-based Writers

Pathlight Spring 2015The new issue of Pathlight (Spring 2015) Chinese literature in translation is out. Its theme is Nature, and you can download the PDF for free here.A quick look at the contents reveals four pieces that fall at least loosely into the “ethnic-themed” fiction category:Two pieces by Mongolian writers:Wolves Walk Atwain (p 18)

Deng Yiguang (邓一光)


The Nightjar at Dusk (p 28)

Gerelchimig Blackcrane (黑鹤)


And this from/about a Han writer in Xinjiang:

A Village of One (p 56)

Interview with the Author (p 66)

Liu Liangcheng (刘亮程)

Liuzhou Blasts: Ensuring Inconsistent News Doesn’t Distract the Public during Holidays

China Digital Times reports on a leaked internal directive issued by a (unnamed) provincial propaganda department aimed at ensuring there is just one correct version of the blasts available on the Chinese Internet (Explosions or 连环爆炸案):

Regarding the explosions in Liucheng County, Guangxi, republish only authoritative sources such as Xinhua News Agency. Do not independently gather or edit [information]. Do not compile and post information on Weibo or WeChat, do not offer special topic [coverage], do not live broadcast video. Violators must immediately redress this and delete [the offending content], no exceptions. News clients and cell phone WAP websites must also implement these directives. Interactive platforms must not hype, gather, or recommend related information.

Profile: Xinjiang-based Uyghur Writer Perhat Tursun

In Meet China’s Salman Rushdie, Foreign Policy’s Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian profiles Xinjiang’s controversial Uyghur writer Perhat Tursun (پەرھات  تۇرسۇن, 帕尔哈提·吐尔逊):

Perhat is the author of The Art of Suicide [自杀的艺术], a novel decried as anti-Islamic that in 1999 set off a religious firestorm among Uighurs, the largely Muslim, Turkic minority concentrated in the nominally autonomous Chinese region of Xinjiang. What followed — years of threats, a de facto ban on Perhat’s works, and at least one book burning — belied the officially atheist ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, which tightly controls the region. But tidal forces of history and competing civilizations have clashed over Xinjiang in recent decades, pitting the party against a local ethnic reawakening, resurgent Islam, and the latest entrant to the region, liberal Western thought. And Perhat, with the publication of his bold philosophical novel, found himself wedged between hardening ideological fronts — a fault line that would put his life in danger.

A few links to his writing:

  • Poetry: Two poems, Elegy and Morning Feeling, in English here,  and a poem in Chinese, here.
  • An older interview with him in Chinese, 一位维吾尔族作家的穿越生活
  • A bilingual synopsis of his PhD thesis on HamsaNizamiddin Alshir Nawayi’s monumental five-part poem (尼扎木丁·艾利狮尔·纳瓦依的巨著《五卷长诗集》)

Meanwhile, Darren Byler — who translates from the Uyghur — reports that his translation of Perhat Tursun’s short story, Plato’s Shovel, is set for publication in a collection of translated writing by non-Han writers.  He is also working on the first part of a trilogy by the author, entitled The Big City: Backstreets. When I know the publication details, I’ll post them.