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May 2018: Yan Ge 颜歌

Yan Ge is an 'Author Ambassador' for Writing Chinese, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of our project from the very beginning, attending a number of events as an invited speaker, and even running a translation masterclass alongside her translator, Nicky Harman. We first featured her on our book club back in 2014, with the first chapter of The Chilli Bean Paste Clan, and we're very happy to feature her here for a second time, with the novella White Horse, also translated by Nicky Harman and published in English by HopeRoad.

HopeRoad is a fantastic independent publisher with a focus on writing from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Many of their YA titles focus on issues dealing with identity, cultural stereotyping, and disability. We're very grateful for their support, and for allowing us to reprint this story. You can find out more about their work and the books they publish here.

Yan Ge was born in 1984 in Sichuan in the People’s Republic of China, and currently lives in Dublin, Eire. She recently completed a PhD in comparative literature at Sichuan University and is the chairperson of the China Young Writer Association. Her novel《我们家》(2013), translated as The Chilli Bean Paste Clan by Nicky Harman  and published in 2018 by Balestier Press, is a razor-sharp, humorous examination of squabbling middle-aged siblings and small town life in twenty-first century China, with all its Rabelaisian excesses and petty corruption. It came out in German, French and several other languages in 2016 and 2017.

Yan Ge's early work focused on the wonders, gods and ghosts of Chinese myth and made her especially popular with teenagers. The novel May Queen (2008) saw her break through as a critically acclaimed author. She now writes realist fiction, strongly Sichuan-based, and. People’s Literature magazine recently chose her – in a list reminiscent of The New Yorker's ‘20 under 40’ – as one of China’s twenty future literary masters. In 2012 she was chosen as Best New Writer by the prestigious Chinese Literature Media Prize (华语文学传媒大奖 最佳新人奖). She was a guest writer at the Netherlands Crossing Borders festival in The Hague, November 2012, and since then has appeared at numerous literary festivals in Europe.

Bio from Paper Republic

White Horse was one of the texts we discussed at a seminar for PGCE students at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in February, and at our Teaching Ambassadors' Weekend in April, exploring ways to use Chinese literature in the curriculum.

Yun Yun lives in a small West China town with her widowed father, an uncle, aunt and an older cousin who live nearby. One day, her once-secure world begins to fall apart. Through her eyes, we observe her cousin, Zhang Qing, keen to dive into the excitements of adolescence but clashing with repressive parents. Ensuing tensions reveal that the relationships between the two families are founded on a terrible lie.

Blurb from HopeRoad

You can read the story both in Chinese and in English.

And The Chilli Bean Paste Clan was one of the books featured at our Book Review Network residential weekend in March, where we were lucky enough to listen to Yan Ge and Nicky Harman discuss the writing and translating of the book. You can read our reviewers' thoughts here.


 Disguised behind the stories of conniving characters and their wanton excess lies a tender portrayal of family relationships, from bitter sibling rivalries and jealousy to care and love. The boisterous inhabitants of Pingle town weave a web of deceit and deception. They mislead and are misunderstood, but beyond all the scheming and slinking around lies a common sense of humanity. The characters, however clever they think they are, all get to play the fool. No one is spared in this farce, not Shengqiang, not his wife Anqin, and not even Gran.
Review by Kate Costello, for the Reading Chinese Book Review Network

Yan Ge has also started writing in English, something which she discussed at the recent launch of Bi'an - The UK Chinese Writers' Network, where she was one of the invited speakers. You can see our special China-themed issue of Stand Magazine, which featured her piece 'The Panda Suicides'.

She has also had stories published in The Irish Times, including 'The Writer who Lives in a Suitcase', in which Leeds plays an important role!