Children's author Chen Jiatong: 'Translation removes language barriers, it makes stories borderless'

Published on: 03 September 2019

Chen Jiatong's book The White Fox has been translated from Chinese to English. Here's why he's so grateful to share his story with more children around the world...

What was the inspiration for The White Fox?

The White Fox series was inspired by my experience as a young child. When I was five years old, on a moonlit night, I woke up from a deep sleep to see a milky white figure standing by my bedroom window. Shaped like a human, but with pointed ears like a fox, it exuded a misty, silvery light. On the next day, I told this experience to my parents, teachers and classmates, though no one believed me; they thought it was only a dream or a trick of the mind, someone even said I told a lie.

But I firmly believed it because I saw it with my own eyes and it was carved in my heart deeply. After that, I kept wondering, what was it? Why did it come to me? Was it some kind of mysterious power calling upon me? Maybe my previous life was a white fox!

Inspired by this encounter, 16 years later, I began writing this story about one white fox’s dreams, and his pursuit to be a human.

Your book is being translated from Chinese to English – what are you most excited about in terms of reaching a new audience?

Translation removes language barriers, it makes stories borderless. Through my entire childhood, western children literature had a significant influence on my ways of writing. I learned so much about how to structure good stories from that literature, for which I have always been grateful. Thus, for me, the most exciting thing about my book being translated to English by translator Jennifer Feeley is that I have an opportunity to repay that literature, and I can share my story to more children around the world.

The White Fox is a magical adventure – what do you particularly like about writing magical themes and characters?

Writing magical themes and characters can make me fly into an imaginary world. Travelling and adventuring with those characters is like hanging out with my old friends in that fantastic world, which can always calm me down from all the troubles of reality and, in the long run, help me to become more optimistic and creative.

The White Fox is the first in a series – what have you enjoyed about writing a story over many volumes, and what are the challenges?

Writing a story over many volumes helped me build an immense world with lots of various characters. Connections and relationships offer more space for me to characterise the characters and to make the story with deeper insight and attraction.

The most challenging thing for me is to design the whole complete story first and then divide it into independent serial stories, and meanwhile, I have to ensure each book is well-rounded and attractive.

What were your favourite childhood books?

My favourite books include The Wind in the Willows, Harry Potter, Charlotte's Web, Momo and The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear.

Hurrah for translators: why we need to translate more children’s books

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