Trends and Buzz
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Saturday, November 5, 2005 at 8:00 PM
Danwei's Beijing Bestsellers feature returns this week to look at a marketplace brimming with media tie-ins.
Unsurprisingly, the heavily-promoted Chinese-language edition of Harry Potter VI is still tops for the second week. Though much cheaper than the English editions sold here over the summer, at 58 yuan the Chinese version is still pretty pricey for a kids' novel. The bestseller lists in the The Beijing News have just a few books above this price - the eagerly awaited translation of A History of Modern Chinese Fiction (60 yuan) by C. T. Hsia, the three-volume, illustrated Historical Outline of the Chinese People (75 yuan) by Taiwanese author Bo Yang, author of Ugly Chinese, a translation of Philip Short's Mao: A Life (60 yuan), The Complete Garfield Collection (160 yuan), and, oddly, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (59 yuan).
Pictured here is Flashing Swords (#4), a novel written in 2001 by Du Liang, which is selling well this season because of a popular television adaptation. The book is promoted as a new type of war novel - a "market-driven war story." It narrates events up through the Cultural Revolution, like the author's second bestseller, Crimson Romance (血色浪漫). Interestingly, the television adaptation breaks off at 1955 without getting into cross-straits relations or CR issues.
CCTV's broadcast of the new Moment in Peking adaptation starring Vicki Zhao has put Lin Yutang's original novel at #2 65 years after it was first published. Lin wrote in English for a US audience; he didn't particularly care for the first Chinese translation done in 1941. The current translation was done in 1977 by Zhang Zhenyu, a translator from Taiwan, but it did not come out on the mainland until a sanitized version was published in 1987 by a publisher in Jilin. Today's political climate has allowed Shaanxi Normal University Press to issue Zhang's full translation of Lin's original text.
According to some, this is not the best Chinese translation. Lin had originally wanted romantic poet Yu Dafu to do the translation, but he had only completed the first section when he was killed in the Japanese invasion. His son Yu Fei finished the translation in 1991, but his version, while capturing the flavor of old Beijing, is not too widely read.
Tibetan Mastiff: Another book about a canine by an author who spent years out among the grassland nomads.
Following the incredible success of stories of nomads and wolves in Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem (#6) comes this novel about Tibetan Mastiffs running about on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Tibetan Mastiff (#7) by Qinghai-born writer Yang Zhijun solves the age-old question of whether pursuing the spirit of a mastiff is more beneficial than pursuing the spirit of a wolf. Or at least it's being promoted that way.
Fully seven of the books on the general bestsellers list are novels. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (#9) will probably stay here until the movie comes out. His Angels and Demons is tenth on the fiction list this week as well. And a novel about post-college life, Days of Grass II by Sun Rui, rounds out the top ten. Also on the fiction list is another in a series of fantasy-martial arts novels, Slaying the Immortals 5 by Xiao Ding.
One of the non-fiction books on the list this week also is tied to a television program. Liu Xinwu, one of the "scar literature" writers, has given a series of television presentations on the classic novel Dream of Red Mansions. His interpretation, which starts off with the mystery surrounding the death of Qin Keqing, proved popular with viewers (though perhaps not with the scholarly establishment), and he has reworked his lectures into book form, Liu Xinwu Demystifies "Dream of Red Mansions" (#5).
Current events have pushed up sales of other books. The new boss of Google's China operations, Li Kaifu, reveals the secrets of his success in Be Your Personal Best (#8). A new printing of Ba Jin's Random Thoughts is second on the non-fiction list following his recent death. And Yu Hua's To Live makes the fiction list probably due to the strong sales of his new novel Brothers (Part I) (#3).
The overall bestseller list for the week of 10/28--11/03:
Bestseller rankings are taken from the Friday Book Review section in The Beijing News, which compiles its data from the city's major online and brick & mortar bookstores.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
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From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.