Everyone knows T.C. Boyle. His English-language novels — 29 so far and counting — are popular worldwide, with translations in over a dozen countries, from Germany to France to Spain to Italy. Add Japan and South Korea to his stable of translations, too.
But so far publishers and translators in China and Taiwan have shied away from translating any of his novels into Chinese. However, with Boyle’s latest novel about LSD guru scientist Albert Hoffmann of Switzerland, titled “Outside Looking In,” set for publication next year, and his recent essay in the New Yorker magazine about the frightful and tragic fires and mudslides in his hometown on Montecito, California reaching readers worldwide, his popularity inside China and Taiwan might be changing and reaching new heights.
Boyle certainly hopes so. One of his dreams, he says, is to reach readers in China, and he hopes one of his novels in translation there might tip the scales and lead to more translations there. And perhaps even a book tour to Beijing and Shanghai to promote the new novel once it appears.
When asked if he had any ideas on how to reach agents and publishers and translators in China, Boyle replied with his trademark humor: “No idea. I’d package them all in one titanic volume and deliver it to every household in China.”
The time is ripe for a some Boyle translations in China, with its rising middle-class of hip Western-influenced readers who would find in Boyle an accessible spirit. China is ascending the world order, and its readers are hungry for new material to sink their teeth into. Certainly, T.C. Boyle is on the radar in Beijing and Shanghai. Taipei, too.
Think of novels like “Drop City,” “The Women,” “The Terranauts,” “Water Music,” “The End of the World,” or “East is East.” There are more than 20 novels waiting to be published into Chinese inside China, and publishers could very well be looking into all this right now.
Gray Tan, one of the top agents and translators in Taiwan, who knows the Chinese-language book scene very well, is someone who might be able to help tip the publishing scales in Asia in Boyle’s favor. Mingming Lui is another translator maven in China who might have some contacts in the Beijing publishing scene as well.
Meanwhile, maybe Mr Boyle’s idea is the best one for now: ” I’d package all my novels in one titanic volume and deliver it to every household in China.”