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Novelist David Mitchell translation contest launches in China

Date: 08/08/2013

UK-China collaborative research project looks to better understand Chinese readers of British writing via Douban Read platform

Award-winning novelist David Mitchell is using the Douban Read platform, part of Douban, which is one of China's biggest online cultural communities, to launch a translation contest for two of his short stories today (1 August 2013).

The contest is the first stage of a new collaborative research project led by Nesta, working with Douban Read, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, British Council and The Literary Platform. The translation contest is designed to generate qualitative and quantitative research to better understand the Chinese market for British writing.

The two short stories written by David Mitchell (The Gardener and The Massive Rat) will go live on the Douban Read platform in English today. Douban Read readers will be invited to submit translations of excerpts from the two stories by the end of August 2013.

David Mitchell comments: I'm honoured to be involved with this Nesta-Douban-British Council initiative, excited by the possibilities for interfacing literature and social media which the project explores, and quietly delighted that my story has been chosen to play even a small role in the fertile matrix of Anglo-Chinese cultural connections. I don't have the skill to read Chinese myself, but I have close friends who do, and I'll be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the competition.

Douban Read is a digital reading service supplier with 3 million users and is part of Douban, the Chinese-language social network which is the worlds' largest network dedicated to books, films and music with around 70 million users; it prides itself on the quality and independence of its exchanges; and it provides a direct window into the tastes of Chinese audiences which may be culturally distinctive.

Douban Read will be shortlisting three translations before passing the final vote to the public. Readers will be able to post comments and reviews. The translation voted 'best' by Douban Read users will then be made available for sale on Douban Read.

China now claims around 500 million internet users and is home to a quarter of all social network users in the world and all the signs are towards continued growth of this group as the internet becomes cheaper and more accessible through the country.  This research project aims to use social networks to better understand the preferences of Chinese audiences for British culture as well providing a means for British artists to engage with them.

Hasan Bakhshi, Director of Creative Economy in Nesta's Policy & Research Unit and one of the project's lead researchers said: There is potentially a vast market in China for British cultural content which remains largely untapped. Social networks allow British artists to experiment with different audience engagement models and to work out what Chinese audiences like.

Chen Wei, Editor of the Department of Foreign Rights, Douban Read comments: David's writing and the film adaptation of his novel Cloud Atlas are both popular on Douban. Douban Read considers this a fantastic opportunity for English literature lovers and English translators as well.

Katie McGowan of Curtis Brown says: It is wonderful to see the success that David has achieved in China in translation, especially the renewed interest in his work that has come as the result of the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas last year. His much publicised visit to the Shanghai Book Fair in 2012, highlighted just how eager Chinese readers are for western literature. We are happy to be part of this collaboration with Douban Read and hope that this project inspires further interest in British cultural content.

David Elliott, Director Arts, British Council in China, said: David Mitchell's visit to China last year as part of the UK Now festival was very popular with the Chinese public, both at his talks and readings, but also, notably, online. He attracted thousands of followers. We're very excited by David's Douban Read project. I think it will tell us a lot about reading habits in China.

Professor Mark Llewellyn, AHRC Director of Research, said: China's growing appetite for creative and cultural exchanges and the richly engaged audiences participating in its social networks is a fertile ground for British creatives to explore. The AHRC's research themes in Translating Cultures and Digital Transformations provide a vital intellectual context for the work of this multi-agency collaboration.

For more information please contact Laura Creyke at The Literary Platform:laura@theliteraryplatform.com or Sarah Reardon at Nesta:sarah.reardon@nesta.org.uk

Notes to Editor:

  • Nesta's research collaboration with Douban developed from a paper called &lsquo,Crossing the River by Feeling for Stones’ by Hasan Bakhshi and Philippe Schneider which argued that the UK's creative industries could use Chinese social networks to develop a market for British content in China.
    Visit the Nesta website for more information
  • David Mitchell's first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for the best book by a writer under 35 and was also shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.
    His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
    His third novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize. He has since published Black Swan Green (longlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize) and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (longisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize).
    In 2003 he was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.
  • Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills.  We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Visit the Nesta website
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. About The Literary Platform:
  • The Literary Platform Collective is an agency specialising in books and technology. They work with a wide range of publishers, developers, literary organisations and the academic sector on digital projects. They also run The Literary Platform online magazine which explores the intersection of books and technology.


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