Join Christine Dunbar on a Tour of Our New Books in Asian Fiction in Translation

Hi! I’m so glad you came back to chat more about books. We have several new translations in the booth this year. To be honest, the book I’m most excited about is still at the printer, but I begged a galley from the publicist to show off at the conference. Friend is a novel by North Korean writer Paek Nam-nyong. It tells the story of a divorce court judge who tries to save the marriage of a feuding young couple, and in the process, just may save his own. As you might guess from that description, it’s a light, quick read, but it also offers a fascinating take on North Korean life. It’s an idealized view, no doubt about that, but what I like about it is that it’s written with a domestic audience in mind. I think you could do really fun stuff with it in the classroom. In fact, translator Immanuel Kim will be teaching it later this semester, and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about the experience.

I bet you could even productively pair Friend with Wang Anyi’s Fu Pinga Howard Goldblatt translation, which we published this year. Fu Ping is a young woman from the countryside who moves to Shanghai—well, I wouldn’t say “in pursuit of a good match.” More because she’s expected to get married. As in much of Wang Anyi’s work, the descriptions of Shanghai tend to steal the show, but I found myself invested in Fu Ping’s decisions. Like Friend, this is a book that uses marriage as a lens to think about what makes a meaningful life, particularly for women, who in both novels are resistant to the circumscribed roles others want them to inhabit.

Take a look at this one—A Couple of Soles. I love how the design manages to be both elegant and playful. I particularly enjoy the bubbles coming out of the fish’s mouth and the way the interior adds more aquatic touches. To my knowledge, A Couple of Soles is the first of Li Yu’s plays to be published in English translation, though his short stories have been available for years. This collaboration between Jing Shen and Bob Hegel provides helpful auxiliary material, including a character list complete with role categories, but at the same time, the translators have not forgotten that the play is meant to be entertaining.

And here’s Wai-yee Li’s volume Plum Shadows and Plank Bridge, a translation of Mao Xiang’s Reminisces of the Plum Shadows Convent and Yu Huai’s Miscellaneous Records of the Plank Bridge. These are both literati records of time spent with courtesans and powerful examples of Ming nostalgia in the early years of the Qing empire, but I particularly enjoyed them for their quiet details, including a long but fascinating digression on incense. 

Not all of our translations are literary in nature. If you look around the booth, you’ll also see translations on nonfiction writing, like The Original Meaning of the Yijing: Commentary on the Scripture of Change, by Zhu Xi. Translated and edited by Joseph A. Adler, it includes, for the first time in any Western language, Zhu Xi’s commentary in full. Or here’s Voices from the Chinese Century: Public Intellectual Debate from Contemporary China. Edited by Timothy Cheek, David Ownby, and Joshua A. Fogel, it provides a selection of pieces by leading thinkers in China on domestic and global issues. Or if you are more into art history, check out the full-color History of Art in Japan by Tsuji Nobuo, translated by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere.

We’ve also brought some best-selling translations from previous years, so please do take your time looking around, and let me know if you have any questions. Conferences are my best opportunity to talk directly to readers. If you don’t have time to chat now, drop me a line by email. Come back at four to read excerpts from some of our fiction in translation, and stop by again tomorrow to hear from Wendy and Lowell about our Asian studies books in philosophy and religion!


Enter our #AAS2020 drawing for a chance to win a free book. Looking for a different book? Although we encourages you to support your local bookstore, we are still offering a 30% conference discount when you order from our website. Use coupon code AAS20 at checkout to save on our exhibited titles.

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