Earlier this year, literary translator Nicky Harman shared her top ten list of English-language translations from China. This list of fiction, children’s books and nonfiction titles began with one of Harman’s own translation projects, The Chilli Bean Paste Clan written by Yan Ge. I’d previously glimpsed this Sichuan family drama in a few online book roundups and was inspired to see if the book’s London/Singapore-based publisher, Balestier Press, offered similar translations. I’m happy to report that there’s definitely more where Ge’s novel came from.
According to Balestier Press’ About page, their editorial team aims to publish “the best and most original voices in Contemporary World Literature, Humanities and Social Sciences.” This means consistently selecting exceptional international picture books, YA titles and contemporary fiction for English-reading fans. The young indie publisher is particularly well known for its English translations of Chinese children’s books, and their catalog reflects this focus.
Actually, it’s more accurate to say that their catalog mostly reflects this focus. Recently, there’s been some small, yet noticeable changes to the BP book lists. New sections have branched from the drop menu. This little publisher is growing.
There are two distinct categories in which Balestier Press is expanding: genre and geographic interest. First, they added adult literature (such as Yan Ge’s above-mentioned novel and Unrest by Pway Ngon Yeng) to their dominantly children’s lit lists. Next came the arrival of a global series, Hearing Others’ Voices, which opened Balestier Press’ doors to publishing work about countries other than China. Hearing Others’ Voices is a “transcultural and transdisciplinary series edited by anthropologist Ruth Finnegan and physicist Roh-Suan Tung” that was created to “inform and engage…in recent advances in thought, unaccountably overlooked areas of the world, and key issues of the day.” The first volume, Time for the World to Learn from Africa, is already available. The second is on its way.
While the team at Balestier Press may continue to explore different genres and regions of the world, one thing is for certain: they will undoubtedly retain their keen eye for gorgeous children’s books from China. A soon-to-be-released example of BP’s dedication to stunning Chinese picture books is The Story of Ink and Water, illustrated by Liang Peilong and translated by Chun Zhang (with original text by Qingye Li). This traditionally inked children’s tale about the magical—and nearly disastrous—meeting of Water Girl, Ink Boy and Brush Boy was featured in a 2017 GLLI Chinese book list in collaboration with Paper Republic. Paper Republic’s in-depth review of The Story of Ink and Water can be found on the GLLI blog. The stunning cover art can be viewed below.
Click here to see the latest books from Balestier Press. For regular updates from the publisher, subscribe to their newsletter via the link at the top right-hand side of the home page or follow them on Twitter via their handle, @BalestierPress.
By Chelsey Slattum