British Council statement on selection of writers for Cultural Programme at London Book Fair 2012
21 March 2012
Susie Nicklin, Director Literature, British Council said:
"The authors taking part in the British Council Cultural programme are internationally recognised as the leading voices writing from China today. Mo Yan, the veteran writer, Han Dong and Li Er, both of whom missed ten years’ schooling during the Cultural Revolution, Annie Baobei who became an internet sensation at the age of 24, Sheng Keyi (published by Penguin China) who writes about new migrations and the metropolis – these authors are writing their best work in contemporary China.
Other countries have already published and hosted many of them - Bi Feiyu, winner of the Man Asia Prize, has had six books published in France, for example. Several of these writers visited Norway in November 2011; many of them also visited Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009 and Greece for the book fair at Thessaloniki in 2010. Audiences in those countries have therefore had the opportunity to meet them in person.
However the chance to visit the UK, to meet British writers, publishers, agents and audiences is one that they have been anticipating for years. Our country and our writers are hugely admired and appreciated by the Chinese literary community who avidly follow prizes such as the Booker Prize and read our contemporary writers both in English and in translation. Visiting authors, such as Jeanette Winterson, Ross Raisin and Catherine O’Flynn attract sell-out crowds and trenchant questions.
As the British reading public is aware, the situation for writers in China is not the same as it is in the UK. The British Council is a cultural relations organisation; it is our role to bring authors and audiences together worldwide to create opportunities for discussion and debate. In the past two months alone British Council literature events have taken place in Berlin, Karachi, Istanbul and Konya, Galle, Jaipur, Kolkata, Cartegena, Tripoli, Athens and Milan.
There was no disagreement with the Chinese government about the final list of British Council writers who regularly appear on well-respected lists of the best novelists and poets in China. These writers live in China and write their books there; other writers have left. The British Council respects both groups and there will be plenty of opportunities for both sets of writers to put their views across in the UK. We look forward to hearing from myriad voices during the week of the London Book Fair."