25 January 08 | Chad W. Post

After all the ACE info of the past few weeks, it was interesting to find out that it is responsible for this fascinating series on the “State of Internet Literature in China” available at Paper Republic.

If you’re not familiar with Paper Republic, it’s the best website out there covering Chinese literature, featuring reviews, samples, and news (such as the aforementioned internet literature project).

In terms of the project on Chinese internet literature, I feel like I should read more of these posts before making any comments or generalizations. That said, what jumps out at me is how different/vital/necessary internet publishing is in China. This interview with Zhao Song—one of the main people in charge of the Helian literary website—makes that clear:

Heilan first came into being in 1996, as a traditional paper literary magazine. It was started by Chen Wei (the other site administrator) in Nanjing, and only put out one issue before being closed down. “You know that period of time,” says Zhao, “the authorities were very anxious then. It was an unofficial publication, and even though there was no sensitive content, the fact that it was unlicensed was enough to get it shut down.”

Helian now consists of a few main components—a monthly magazine, digital publications, and a literary prize—and is looking to expand its traditional publishing arm over the next few years.

There are two other bits of this that I found really interesting—the first about the state of Chinese literature:

“The Chinese literary scene is suffering,” says Zhao. “The political upheavals of the past decades have broken our link with the past. We’re like orphans, in some regard. In the west there’s a very strong line of continuity in the development of literature, but in China we’ve lost our footing.” He characterizes the two decades of 1980-2000 as a period of recovery and restoration. “But now that we’re ready to move forward, where do we go? It’s time to reconnect to our past and our traditions, but reconnect how?” The May Fourth literary movement (begun in 1919) represented a renaissance, but it was ended before it really came to fruition. The 1980s saw a frenzy for foreign literature, but in Zhao’s opinion that was mostly just an expression of excitement at being allowed to read again. “People didn’t understand what it was they were reading – the context or background.”

And this section on the challenges of finding good writers for the website:

“It’s just really hard to find good writers. We go out actively looking for writers, and trying to lure them in to the site. We do most of our looking online, at other literary websites – we spent some time looking in traditional paper literary magazines, but were almost universally disappointed in the quality we found there. They almost all belong to the Writers Association, and that influence is visible in all of them.”

Comments are disabled for this article.
Dinner by César Aira
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .

Read More >

We're Not Here to Disappear
We're Not Here to Disappear by Olivia Rosenthal
Reviewed by Megan C. Ferguson

Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .

Read More >

The Queen's Caprice
The Queen's Caprice by Jean Echenoz
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .

Read More >

French Concession
French Concession by Xiao Bai
Reviewed by Emily Goedde

Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .

Read More >

Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .

Read More >

The Cold Song
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Reviewed by David Richardson

Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .

Read More >

This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

Read More >

A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

Read More >

Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

Read More >

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

Read More >