There’s been an interesting series of conversations on Sina’s microblog service this week about works of classic literature translated in the 1980s — before China signed on to international copyright conventions.
Janson Yao writes:
Today I read an article by Huang Luo about the translation of short detective fiction in Taiwan, and it looks like the situation in Taiwan and the mainland is pretty much the same. Early on, copyright wasn’t observed, and works were translated at will. By the nineties, under copyright restrictions, translations declined. Huang noticed that there have been some mystery anthologies published in recent years, but it seems like most of them are anthologies from an individual author. In collections of works by multiple authors, rights must be obtained separately for each piece. The cost is high, and it takes time.
Wu Yan comments:
I read that the translator of Walden Two said that when he took the very first edition to get Skinner’s autograph, he had to cover it up because he didn’t have the rights, lest the author see what book it was.