“That Damned Thing She Said”: 4 short stories from China

Wanderlust: Great Literature from Around the World

Read Paper Republic in partnership with Free Word

Mon 14 Mar 2016, 6:45pm

Free Word Lecture Theatre

With International Women’s Day (8 March) in mind, Read Paper Republic has selected 4 short stories from China that focus on highly-charged issues such as sexual freedom, political disappearances, “left-over” women, and compromising situations. A woman trapped in a loveless marriage has an awkward, but ultimately empowering, one-night stand. A wife comes home to find her husband has disappeared, or rather “been disappeared”. The colleagues of a career woman apply their engineering expertise to the intractable problem of finding her a worthy husband. A young woman refuses to sleep with her boss, with catastrophic consequences for her family.

Download the stories by clicking on the titles below and read them in advance, then come along for some speed-bookclubbing!

  • 4 experienced translators will lead 4 groups simultaneously.
  • Discuss one story for 20 minutes, then move onto the next.
  • Discuss the subject matter, the style, the writing, and the authors (does it make a difference that two of the stories are written and translated by women, and the other two by men?)

You’ll get a chance to ask any questions you like. But most of all, this is an interactive event: we want to hear what you think, which ones you liked (or not) and what intrigued or puzzled you.

This stimulating evening, presented by Read Paper Republic and in partnership with Free Word, will introduce you to the world of Chinese writing and of women in contemporary Chinese literature.


Download the original short stories by clicking on the links in the titles below:

That Damned Thing She Said, by FU Yuli, translated by Nicky Harman

Missing, by LI Jingrui, translated by Helen Wang

Mahjong, by FENG Tang, translated by Brendan O’Kane

The One Who Picks Flowers, by LIU Qingbang, translated by Lee Yew Leong

Don’t worry if you don’t finish all 4 stories before the event – you can download a Cheat Sheet here which provides a brief introduction to each of them so that you can come along to enjoy the discussion and hear what the translators have to say.

Read Paper Republic is an ambitious project run by the Paper Republic collective of Chinese-to-English literary translators. They’ve committed to publishing one free-to-view short story (or poem or essay) a week for a year, from June 2015-June 2016. 4 of the Read Paper Republic translators will be at this event.

This event is part of Wanderlust: Great Literature from Around the World, a monthly event series at Free Word. Join us on the second Monday of each month to celebrate the best fiction in translation.

We record each Wanderlust so that if you can’t make an event, you can catch up and enjoy the conversation via an online audio recording. These recordings are available on our Soundcloud and also on our blog within a week or two of the live event at Free Word Centre.

Nicky Harman translates Chinese fiction, essays and poetry. Her most recent publication is Paper Tigers (Head of Zeus, 2015), a collection of essays by the political blogger XU Zhiyuan (co-translated with Michelle Deeter).

Helen Wang translates for both adults and younger readers, her most recent book being the children’s novel Bronze and Sunflower by CAO Wenxuan (Walker Books, 2015).

Emily Jones’ most recent translation is Black Holes (Penguin China, 2014), a thriller by professor of law and novelist He Jiahong.

Roddy Flagg has translated many short stories for Pathlight: New Writing from China (Beijing).

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