For this presentation, I counted the number of countries and languages, apart from China and Chinese (and China’s ethnic minority languages) that my books have been published in so far, and it came to 38 countries and 35 languages. The reason there are more countries than languages is mainly because English editions are published in North America (US and Canada), the UK, Australia and New Zealand; Portuguese editions are published in Brazil and Portugal; and Arabic editions in Egypt and Kuwait. But sometimes the situation is reversed: my books are published in two languages in Spain (Castilian and Catalan) and in India (Malayam and Tamil).
Looking back on how my books have roamed the world, I see there are three factors: translation, publication and readers. I’ve noticed that in China discussions about Chinese literature in a world context focus on the importance of translation, and of course, translation is important, but if a publisher doesn’t publish, then it doesn’t matter how good a translation is, if it’s going to be locked in a drawer, old-style, or, these days, stored on a hard drive. Then there are the readers. If a publisher publishes a book, and the readers don’t pick up on it, then the publisher will lose money and won’t want to publish any more Chinese literature. So, these three factors – translation, publication and readers – are all essential. Continue reading