TAIPEI (Taiwan News) －As Taiwanese literature expands across the globe, industry players have found the publishing market between countries in Europe extremely diverse despite their geographic proximity.
At a seminar hosted by the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature (NMTL) last Friday (July 22), scholars and literary professionals exchanged ideas and experiences on promoting Taiwanese literature in different cultures and publishing markets.
French market: quite friendly
The French are known for their love of reading, with 88% of French considering readers themselves. LIterative agent Gray Tan Kuang-lei (譚光磊) underlined the relative receptivity of the French market to Taiwanese literature and the impressive skill of French translators.
As founder and president of Grayhawk Agency, whose authors have been translated into more than thirty languages, Tan notes that the French market is quite particular in its sensitivity to Asian literature, whether Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese.
Tan added that user-friendliness is complemented by the high level of skill of French translators, which is why many literary works often begin with a French translation before being translated and published worldwide.
The latest collaboration between the museum and the French publishing house L’Asiathèque is “Formosana: Stories of Democracy in Taiwan”.
German market: more difficult to conquer
Although German readers generally show great interest in translated literary works, the project team encountered some unexpected challenges along the way.
On the German Readership of Translated Works, Professor at National Chengchi University Hsu An-Nie (徐安妮) quoted data from 2021 showing that 13% of the 63,990 books published in Germany were translations, of which 6.5% were literature.
However, Hsu said most publishers set their publishing goal a year or two in advance, which makes it difficult to step in with unforeseen publishing proposals.
Therefore, even though the project team gave rich presentations, with a detailed introduction to Taiwanese literature, the works themselves, the authors and the translators, “it was only at the last minute that we We have reached an agreement with the publishing house projekt verlag,” added Hsu.
Tan provided a similar observation that German publishers are generally not too adventurous and prefer to stick to countries and themes that are familiar to them.
Taking the Taiwanese novel “The Man with Compound Eyes” as an example, Tan noted that among the nineteen countries that bought the translation rights to the book, Germany was almost the last country to make the deal.
Currently, the museum project has spawned two books focusing on women’s literature – “Of Fortune Tellers and Techno Women (Von Wahrsagern und Technofrauen)” and “Wait for the Train (Warten auf den Zug)”.
Polish market: potential resonance for identity
Soochow University sociology professor Shih Fu-Sheng (施富勝) leads the museum’s Taiwanese literature project in Poland and said the project’s central goal is to “present Taiwan’s diverse and dynamic identities “.
It’s not just because “Taiwan’s diversity of identities and values sets us apart in the Chinese world,” Shih explained, but exploring identity should strike a chord with Poles, a people who shares similar experiences. of diverse ancestry – many Poles with backgrounds from Lithuania or Ukraine – and a constant struggle to form its national identity.
According to Shih, finding suitable translators poses another challenge. In Polish academia, those who know Mandarin quite well are usually sinologists trained in the Chinese system and often have little understanding of Taiwan’s history and culture.
According to the museum, more Taiwanese literary works are expected to arrive in libraries across Poland after 2023 thanks to new funding.
Past efforts have seen the Polish edition of Taiwanese literary works such as the historical non-fiction “Big River, Big Sea (Wielka rzeka, wielkie morze)”, popular picture books by Jimmy Liao (廖福彬), and the short story anthology “On the Other Side: An Anthology of Contemporary Taiwanese Stories (Na drugim brzegu: Antologia współczesnych opowiadań tajwańskich).”
Dedicated to the research and dissemination of Taiwanese literature, the museum has undertaken several projects to promote Taiwanese literature in translation since 2010, implementing the Translation Fellowship Program, Resident Translator Program, organizing workshops and exhibitions, as well as the creation of the online database Taiwan Literature in Translation Repository, where users can search for published translations and translators of Taiwanese literature.