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International forum promotes translations of Taiwanese literature

Translators, authors, publishers gather to bring Taiwanese literature to world stage

A forum on translation of Taiwanese literature. (National Museum of Taiwan Literature photo)

A forum on translation of Taiwanese literature. (National Museum of Taiwan Literature photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The National Museum of Taiwan Literature hosted an
international forum to better understand the challenges and opportunities for
promoting Taiwanese literature around the world.

The forum invited international guests, from translators to literary agents. It was led by Dr. Ian Rowen, associate professor at National Taiwan Normal University’s Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages, and Literature.

One forum highlight was the presentation of the Swedish Cikada Prize to Taiwanese poet Chen Yu-hung (陳育虹). Founded two decades ago, the annual prize is awarded to East Asian poets.

Rowen introduced Táňa Dluhošová, a research fellow at the Oriental Institute, Czech
Academy of Sciences, who recently co-authored a journal article in the University
of California, Santa Barbara's semi-annual publication "Taiwan Literature English
Translation Series" (TLETS). Dluhošová said the editorial team worked diligently to
highlight various literary genres, but the writers were predominantly male.

She said that when compared to other publications with similar missions, such as
The Taipei Chinese PEN and Columbia University’s translations of Taiwanese literature, TLETS showed a gender bias.

Dluhošová said that editors and translators were very influential in how Taiwanese literature was represented overseas. She said she hopes that in the future, translated works will have more diversity, allowing more voices to be heard.

International forum promotes translations of Taiwanese literature
Large audience attends forum on translation of Taiwanese literature. (National Museum of Taiwan Literature photo)

The next speaker, Gray Tan (譚光磊), was considered one of Taiwan’s leading
international literary agents. Tan said that in recent years, Asian writers have enjoyed
increasing popularity.

He said that novels set in Taiwan add a degree of mystery and would not be off-putting for international readers. "People are critical to the success of translations of Taiwanese literature. This includes translators, publishers, and copyright companies. These people should form an alliance so such translations can travel around the world,” said Tan.

The next speaker was Silvia Marijnissen, an esteemed translator of Taiwanese poetry into Dutch. She is currently translating the poems of Yu Kwang-chung (余光中).

Marijnissen said that there are few Dutch translations of Taiwanese literature. In 1996, Marijnissen co-founded the magazine “Het Trage Vuur," which pioneered the Dutch translation of Chinese literature.

The National Museum of Taiwan Literature signed an agreement with Leiden University to make the Netherlands the theme country for the 2024 Taipei International Book Fair. About 10 Dutch writers are expected to come to Taiwan, and Marijnissen said she hoped this opportunity would allow more audiences to understand Taiwanese literature.

Next up was one of France’s leading translators of Chinese literature, Gwennaël Gaffric, an assistant professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the Université Jean Moulin Lyon III and the chief editor of L'Asiathèque, a Taiwan fiction collection series. Under Gaffric, 10 Taiwanese literary works have been published in France, including "A City of Sadness" (悲情城市), an award-winning film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢).

Gaffric said that literary festivals and exhibitions are important to authors and publishers. Although Taiwanese novels have difficulty entering the mass market, these events can give Taiwanese writers more chances to communicate with French readers.