China's flagship literature magazine has launched an English version to tap into overseas audiences and boost the global impact of contemporary Chinese literature.
People's Literature, the first state-level literary magazine established in the People's Republic of China after its founding, published last Friday a 160-page English issue featuring translations of 17 Chinese writers' works.
Entitled "Pathlight," the issue includes speeches and writings by five winners of this year's Mao Dun Literature Prize, a prestigious Chinese literary award. Some of them, including Mo Yan and Bi Feiyu, are familiar to overseas readers.
"Bellwethers, or writers who are most representative of Chinese literature, have to be introduced," said Li Jingze, editor-in-chief of People's Literature and Pathlight.
Young writers whose fiction, non-fiction and poetry work might be unfamiliar even to Chinese readers are also included in Pathlight.
An increasing number of overseas readers are growing interested in the latest trends and rising stars in China's literary circle, but they are in dire need of a trustworthy and highly professional introduction, which is exactly how the English version is positioned, Li said.
"China cannot rely only on foreign publishing houses and media to promote its literary works. It has to voice its own opinions via its own platform," said Liu Xinglong, a winner of the Mao Dun Literature Prize and a featured author in Pathlight.
At the recent sixth plenary session of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), it was pointed out that the country had not done a satisfactory job of exporting its culture and further efforts are needed to promote China's international influence.
"It is an urgent mission to enhance the country's soft power. To that end, boosting literature exports is highly necessary," said Li Bing, Party secretary of the China Writers' Association (CWA).
Pathlight provides overseas readers with access to the works and ideas of contemporary Chinese writers, a practice that is exemplary for other publications, said Ding Yixiu, an official from the General Administration of Press and Publication, the country's press watchdog.
A group of 13 native English speakers have been recruited to translate the selected pieces in Pathlight.
"I am doing something really meaningful at Pathlight by keeping readers outside of China in touch with the country's most outstanding works and writers," said translator and editorial director Eric Abrahamsen.
"More translators with an intimate knowledge of Chinese culture and proficiency in Chinese language should be trained to meet ever-expanding demand in the international market for translations of Chinese literary works," Li Jingze said.
Pathlight is currently being published on a trial basis and will likely be published once each quarter for the time being, Li said.
The next issue, which is scheduled to come out in February 2012, will feature Chinese writers who have been invited to next year's London Book Fair, according to assistant to editor-in-chief and editorial director Qiu Huadong.
"We hope Pathlight will serve as a light on the path of cultural exchange between China and other countries," Li said.