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China Daily Global / 2021-04 / 23 / Page014

Book publication is story of cooperation

By Zhang Kun | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-23 00:00

Latest work by Kazuo Ishiguro appears simultaneously in the UK and China, Zhang Kun in Shanghai reports.

The new novel by Nobel-prize winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro is a groundbreaking work in many respects, not least that it is one of the few books that have been simultaneously published in its original language and Chinese at the same time.

Klara and the Sun was published in Chinese by Shanghai Translation Publishing House on March 3(March 2 in Britain), the same day the English book was launched by the British publisher Knopf.

"This is the first time we have succeeded in achieving simultaneous publication with our international partners," says Huang Yuning, deputy director of Shanghai Translation Publishing House.

The first print run of 100,000 copies for the Chinese edition of Klara and the Sun was a success, and another 20,000 copies are in production, she says.

Huang introduced the book at a reading event in downtown Shanghai on April 10. Klara and the Sun is the first book by Ishiguro since the author won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017, and six years since his last book, The Buried Giant, was released, Huang says.

Klara and the Sun is a science fiction story told from the point of view of an "Artificial Friend", a robot created to "prevent teenagers from becoming lonely", Ishiguro explains in a video message to Chinese readers.

Although she finds the human world sometimes filled with fear and darkness, "Klara's own vision remains like that of a small child, filled with hope and trust in the presence of goodness", the 66-year-old writer says in the video clip recorded at his home in London."She asks questions like 'why do human beings become lonely?' And 'what do human beings mean by the word love?'"

The author went on to introduce his new novel as "positioned somewhere halfway between" his two previous books, Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day.

The English book is already a New York Times best-seller, and Maureen Corrigan of National Public Radio in the United States praised Klara and the Sun as "one of the most affecting and profound novels Ishiguro has written". She called the novel "a masterpiece that will make you think about life, mortality, the saving grace of love: in short, the all of it".

At the reading event in Shanghai, locally based novelist Xiao Bai praised Klara as "the best creation of the author", and marveled at how Ishiguro built up the tension between the innocent altruistic faith of a robot girl and the sophisticated doubts of the writer.

Zhang Yiwei, a professor with Fudan University and a prolific writer herself, compared Klara to the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Daughter of the Sea. Chen Qiufan, a science fiction writer, was amazed at the author's masterful storytelling, which focuses on emotional and philosophical depth, and how it created a convincing sci-fi setting without extra writing to define the world in which it set.

In its award citation in 2017, the Nobel committee described Ishiguro's books as "novels of great emotional force", noting that he has "uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".

"We actually had the book printed, ready in the warehouse and waited for the British publisher for a couple of days," says Feng Tao, head of the literature department at Shanghai Translation Publishing House. Bound by an agreement with the British publisher Knopf, the Chinese edition could not be released earlier than the original language version, he says.

It is common practice that publishers share with their foreign language publishing partners the drafts of books by big-name authors before release. "This provides some time to complete the translation process, so that international readers can access a version in their own language as soon as possible," Feng says. The Shanghai publishing house has established relationships with publishers and agencies of acclaimed authors, such as Margret Atwood, Haruki Murakami and Ian McEwan.

The Chinese edition will usually be released a few months after the publication of the book in its original language, but Klara and the Sun was a rare exception. The pandemic may have hindered the publishing process at Knopf, but more importantly Feng believes that the author's working style gave the Chinese publisher an advantage in terms of timing.

"Ishiguro is a slow writer, with just nine books published in a career spanning four decades," Feng says. As a writer, Ishiguro is a perfectionist who will keep on editing his drafts even after they are submitted, correcting minor mistakes and replacing details with wording that he considers more appropriate.

Also, Feng says: "We managed to speed up the publishing process of the Chinese edition of Klara, thanks to great coordination."

Song Qian, translator of the book, is himself a team member of the literary department at the Shanghai publishing house. "With Klara being one of this year's most important books for us, I asked Song to prioritize the translation before any other projects, a task he accomplished with a high degree of quality," Feng says.

It has been a great tradition of this publishing house that all the editors, young or old, are ready to take up translation assignments."Our former head of the department, Mr Fang Ping (1921-2008), was the editor and leading translator of our publication of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare," he says.

Feng himself was the translator of Ishiguro's best-known novel The Remains of the Day. The veteran publisher of foreign language literature has been following Ishiguro's career for more than a decade. In 2009, Ishiguro's short story collection Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall came out and "we bought the copyright for its simplified Chinese edition immediately".

That marked the beginning of the company's publication of Ishiguro's whole body of work, the simplified Chinese language copyrights of which had been secured by 2017, when the Nobel Prize for literature was announced.

As previously mentioned, the publisher also has ties to the careers of major contemporary writers, such as McEwan, Murakami and Atwood, publishing their works systematically in series.

"We have built great partnerships with important publishers, writers and their agents through our dedication and the quality of our work," he says. The cover and binding design of Klara, for example, "won praise from the author himself".


More than 100 people participate in the reading event at Sinan Book Club in Shanghai, introducing Klara and the Sun, the latest novel by British author Kazuo Ishiguro, on April 10. CHINA DAILY



Writers, scholars and editors (from left) Chen Qiufan, Xiao Bai, Zhang Yiwei and Huang Yuning talk about Klara and the Sun, and the popularity of sci-fi subjects, such as artificial intelligence, in global literature. CHINA DAILY



British author Kazuo Ishiguro, a photo taken by his wife, Lorna Ishiguro. CHINA DAILY



The cover of his book, Klara and the Sun. CHINA DAILY








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