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Chinese Fiction Is Hot

A Nobel prize pits the focus on Chinese writers
Shanghai Book City
Shanghai Book CityPhotograph by Karl Johaentges/Getty Images

On the evening the Nobel Prize committee crowned magical-realist novelist Mo Yan as the first laureate living in China (outside a prison), Alice Xin Liu, managing editor of Pathlight, a new magazine of Chinese literature translated into English, was downing homemade ale at Vine Leaf, a Beijing bar. Her smartphone lit up with ecstatic text messages. “But I wasn’t really surprised,” she said. “Mo Yan’s name had been floated for a while, and in the past year the international buzz around Chinese literature has grown really loud. It felt like it was time.” Liu, who is 26, spent her early childhood in Beijing before moving to the U.K. at age 7 and then back to China after college—just in time to witness the blossoming of interest in Chinese authors.

This April, the celebrated London Book Fair featured 21 invited Chinese authors (including Mo Yan) as part of its “2012 China Market Focus.” To be sure, as Liu relates, there was “a bit of a culture clash,” with the Chinese officials accompanying the literary delegation usurping more podium time than the actual writers. (“Predictably the British media had a laugh about that,” says Liu.) Yet the book fair’s decision to showcase writers from China is indicative, she says, of growing interest from international publishers and audiences.