The San Francisco Chronicle has a good story about the success behind the publication of Wu’s February Flowers. There are a number of revealing parts in the interview with Wu’s English literary agent about the problems of getting lost in translation and the thinness of the market in the United States (as compared with Australia) for fiction translated from Chinese into English. Wu got around this problem by writing her novel in English. To satisfy the market in Asia, Australia and England, Macmillan Press has started a new imprint Picador Asia. And February Flowers will be the first book published by the new imprint.
Wu’s literary journey is an interesting one. She was born in China, moved to California where she studied at Stanford University and she wrote her novel in California, found an agent in England, and a publisher in Asia.
“Literary agent Toby Eady of London, who brought Wu's “February Flowers” to Macmillan, maintains that the reason so few contemporary Chinese authors are read in the West, and the reason modern China is so little understood by the West, is the dearth of good translations of contemporary Chinese writers. Wu, 33, overrode the problem by writing in English.
“Eady, the British agent who represented Wu, claims that Americans are not interested in contemporary Chinese writers. "They think Chinese is Amy Tan."
“Eady, who brought Jung Chang's “Wild Swans” and Xinran's “The Good Women of China” out in English, has been one of the few agents to sell contemporary Chinese voices by insisting on hiring translators who speak and write Chinese and who are native English speakers. He is a publishing consultant to Picador Asia. Most translations of Chinese authors fail because they are done by academics who render the Chinese into strict English, and worse, "with a tin ear," he says.”