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China has its very own Game of Thrones and we bet you didn’t know about it. The Condor Trilogy represents the very best of Asian literature. Written by Chinese journalist and essayist Louis Cha Leung-yung under the pseudonym of Jin Yong, the Condor series was written in the late 1950s and is all set to be translated for the global market.
What is the Condor Trilogy?
Revolving around the ancient creed of Wuxia warriors and set against the backdrop of the Chinese Song dynasty, the Condor Trilogy is hailed as a fantasy epic. Jin Yong has unanimously been referred to as the Asian JRR Tolkien. The novel was first serialised between Jan 1, 1957 and May 19, 1959 in a Hong Kong Commercial Daily. The series also has a successful Chinese TV show based on it and recently has been picked up for translation by a British publication.
The trilogy has acquired a legit cult fandom, but is sadly still an unknown read owing to its language. It is already been touted as a global fantasy epic post its translation. The first novel of the trilogy titled The Legend of the Condor Heroes, is about the friendship between two heroes, Yang Tiexin and Guo Xiaotian, who fought against the Jin invaders. They pledge undying brotherhood to each other and make an oath – which propels the action of the next two novels.
How can we read it?
The series is being compared to Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, owing to its period warfare based material. The three novels of the The Condor Trilogy, Heroes of…, The Return of the Condor Heroes and The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, will be made into a 12-volume series, and would be available in the international market by the British publishing house MacLehose Press.
“These books are read by so many Chinese people when they are teenagers, and the work really stays in their heads. So, of course, I felt a great weight of responsibility in translating them – and even more as publication draws near,” says Anna Holmwood, the translator of the series. Anna picked up one of the novels at a Taipei bookshop 2010 and a couple of years later started thinking about translating the series. It took her about a year and a half to finish the first translated draft of the whole book.
Why it’s like Game of Thrones
“Xia, as I understand it, is about fighting in a historically tumultuous period when you don’t have justice and you can’t rely on the law and government to step in to make sure everything is in order and justice is served,” Holmwood told The Guardian. The Xia warriors or the Wuxia warriors follow a code of chivalry equivalent to the medieval knights.
“Xia is fighting for justice and good … In this genre, fictional world and historical context, violence has a righteousness. It’s about good as well as bad,” adds Anna. The first book of the trilogy Legends of the Condor Heroes has more than 1,300 pages and but the first volume translated, named A Hero Born has 400 pages, and had to be substantially compartmentalised.
A Hero Born is set in 1200 China and is about “an empire close to collapse. Under attack from the Jurchen Jin dynasty, the future of the entire Chinese population rests in the hands of a few lone martial arts exponents.” It is set to come out in February 2018.
“When you are translating, you have to read on such a careful and deep level. You are constantly asking yourself: is the hand going there? Is it going up or down? How is this move working? That’s the most challenging part – is to be able to express what the actions are in a way that is going to be vivid on the page and people can clearly understand and follow what’s happening,” says Anna, who calls the series a blend of Chinese Walter Scott and Lord of the Rings.