China is a huge book market, the second largest in the world after the US, with the turnover in the book sector at about 10 billion euros a year.
Regarding Greek literature, it is not surprising that the translations of ancient Greek works come first place in China. Kazantzakis is the most translated and well-known contemporary writer, while in recent years, China has “discovered” Cavafy. Some of the poetry collections of Elytis and Seferis have been translated as well as works by A. Samarakis, M. Lountemis, M. Vamvounaki, E. Trivizas and others.
In order to explore the image and position of Greek literature abroad, author and historian Emilios Solomos conducted a research titled “Greek Literature Abroad” for online magazine Literature.gr and spoke to Hellenists and translators who form the bridge between Greek letters and the other languages and cultures.
Solomos spoke with Jingjing Hu, translator, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Modern Greek Studies at the Shanghai International University, regarding Greek literature in China. Jingjing Hu came into contact with ancient Greek culture and Greek mythology at a very young age, and this led her to study Greek literature. “I adore Greece and I want to introduce it to my compatriots”, she explains.
According to Jingjing Hu, modern Greek literature is unknown yet appealing to Chinese readers and can be an important step since they already admire the ancient Greek world.
Speaking about her own translation experience, she refers to Eugene Trivizas’s children’s book “The Last Black Cat” and the particular difficulties she encountered with punctuation, idiomatic expressions and proverbs, that is, expressions that contain dense semantic elements. She stresses that she could not have translated the book into Chinese without the valuable help of the author. For Jingjing Hu, the translator is not just a mediator but a creator (though he/she remains unknown) as “a good translation must be a good literary and creative work at the same time”.
Finally, in order to promote the Greek book in China, Hu proposes to strengthen the publishing exchanges between the two countries in order to give Greek writers the opportunity to communicate directly with Chinese publishers who, with the appropriate titles, will be able to make contemporary Greek literature known in her country.