Sichuan-born novelist Yan Ge, who is famous for her stories of rural China that are written in her hometown dialect, is set to publish her debut novel and short story collection in English.
According to The Bookseller, literary publishers Faber and Scribner have acquired the exclusive UK and Commonwealth rights and the North American rights, respectively, of Yan’s novel Hotel Destination and short story collection Elsewhere, both of which will be her first in English.
Yan retweeted the aforementioned news article on her personal Twitter account. “To debut again!” she wrote, “Thanks to my second language which rejuvenated my literary voice and enabled me to begin another journey as a new writer five years ago when I was 31.”
What’s Going Wrong with Chinese Literature in Translation?
Over the weekend, Chinese-American novelist Er Xiang republished on her official WeChat account a personal essay written by Yan in 2018. In the essay, Yan reminisces about her literary journey as an anglophone writer, which began in a workshop with American writer Phillip Lopate when she was a visiting scholar at Duke University.
She wrote, “Compared to writing in Chinese, writing in English was completely unexciting; it felt lukewarm… a process that could please nobody. I promised myself that no matter what I’d do, I’d never write in English.”
However, her attitude began to change as she attended more literary festivals in Ireland, where she resided with her husband. As her works received international recognition, she was frequently asked to read excerpts of her translated works in English.
Fans of Literature Are Creating Hubs for Translated Chinese Fiction Online
The readings felt distanced from her stories. “I felt compelled to tell my audience,” she wrote, “that the English came from my translator, not me.”
Eventually, she broke her promise and wrote her first English-language work in 2017. Upon struggling to compose a solicited submission for an Irish literary journal, she decided to try writing it in English. The result was Yan’s excellent essay, The Panda Suicide.
She described the process of writing in English as “exciting, as if a youthful writerly self who just began to write stories emerged from inside.”
Her English-language stories have been published in numerous literary magazines, including The New York Times, The Irish Times, and TLS.
Reflecting on the process of writing these stories, Yan noted, “The most important thing I’ve realized is, writing in English will not require me to bid farewell with my mother language.
“I have become a new writer in the anglophone world, but I’m still the same person, writing about my hometown, in my native Sichuanese dialect,” she added.
Yan’s short story collection Elsewhere is set to be published in 2023.
Cover image via Unsplash
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam