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People's Daily Online>>Life & Culture

Writing for hearts and minds

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

10:30, April 18, 2012

The largest delegation of Chinese writers visiting the London Book Fair is hoping to win over British and worldwide audiences. Mei Jia reports in London.

It's late afternoon on Monday, the first day of the London Book Fair, and writer Tie Ning is talking to a roomful of people in Earl's Court on the topic of female authors. "Some say women think with their wombs, whereas men use their brains," Tie says. "But the womb controls everything, including the brain." The audience - a mix of nationalities, men and women - bursts into peels of laughter. Tie is leading China's largest delegation of writers to the fair, to showcase contemporary Chinese literature. In addition to the cultural exchange events she is attending, Tie has also signed a contract with Blue Door to publish her signature novel, The Bathing Women.

Susie Nicklin, director of literature at the British Council, tells China Daily this is the first time they have hosted such a large group of Chinese writers in the UK.

In another first, the British Council has also invited other Chinese authors to tour the UK after the fair and take part in literary events, Nicklin adds.

"We're very excited about the additional opportunities to spread the word about Chinese literature," she says.

UK publishers are aware the general public has only a vague idea about contemporary Chinese literature, though they may know something about the country's classics.

Penguin China's Jo Lusby was responsible for publishing the best selling Chinese novel so far in the West, Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong. Now she is promoting Sheng Keyi and her new book Northern Girls to British readers.

"For Chinese writers, the physical and linguistic distance means it can be difficult for them to promote their books in the UK.

"But having them on platforms, both within the official programs and more widely in bookshops and event spaces around London, is a valuable opportunity to put them in front of their audiences," Lusby says.

"If readers have an opportunity to hear an author speak, we find they create a strong relationship with the book."

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