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English>>Life & Culture

Literary la vida loca

By Lu Qianwen (Global Times)

09:00, August 24, 2012

When the Chinese version of One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Columbia's author Gabriel García Márquez was first published in China in 1984, it ushered a landmark movement for Latin American literature in the country. Last year, total domestic sales of the book reached 1.5 million.

The Chinese version of Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), also written by Márquez, is expected to be published later this month by Thinkingdom Media Group, a leading private publisher in China. It's the only publisher in the country that has obtained authorization to publish the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature winner's two works.

In addition to these two novels, another masterpiece 2666 (2004) by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaòo was first officially published in China in January this year.

"Publishing of Latin American literature now is much better compared to the surge of it in the 1980s in China," Li Yao, chief editor of the foreign literature department at Thinkingdom Media, told the Global Times. "Regardless of the books' quality and quantity or the handling of copyright issues, domestic publishers have matured now."

Unauthorized publishing

Back in the 1980s when Latin American literature was first introduced en masse to China, none of these books received authorization for publishing in Chinese from their authors. China didn't join the Universal Copyright Convention until 1992, a reason why the piracy of Latin American literature was so prevailing then, according to Li.

Led by Márquez and Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, a group of Latin American writers specializing in "magic realist" literature - an aesthetic, fictional genre that blends magical elements with the real world - helped influence Chinese writers with their ideas.

"Chinese readers in the past mostly read critical realist literature, such as the works of Balzac and Tolstoy in the 19th century," noted Li. The arrival of Latin American literature broke ground with its literary style Chinese readers and writers were unfamiliar with 30 years ago.

While Chinese publishers were buoyed by strong sales of translated books by Latin American authors during that time, they later received a shock when they were ordered to pay for previous unauthorized publishing of the books in Chinese.

Márquez had vowed not to permit his works to be published in China in 1990 during a visit to the country after seeing widespread piracy of his books.

"There were at least five translated versions of One Hundred Years of Solitude in the country in the 1980s," noted Li.

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