Ten months ago, when Cindy Carter and her fellow Beijing-based translators of Chinese fiction met to talk about creating a blog dedicated to Chinese literature in translation, they agreed that few people outside China knew much about contemporary Chinese literature - and it was time to do something about it. 'A few years ago I remember Googling for contemporary Chinese literature and I came up with nothing,' says Carter, sitting in a Beijing coffee shop. Authors such as Su Tong, Wang Suo, Mo Yan and Yu Hua have been translated into English by Howard Goldblatt and other overseas scholars, but there is 'definitely a backlog of literature by writers born in the 70s and 80s which has yet to be translated', Carter adds. Unfortunately, many western readers still view Chinese novels as 'just China stories' rather than carefully crafted writing by individual mainland voices, says Carter, a California native who translated Guo Xiaolu's Village of Stone. It was in part a desire to correct this misconception that convinced Carter and two American colleagues, Eric Abrahamsen and Brendan O'Kane, to create the site (paperrepublic.org) in June. Since then, Paper Republic has put together a database of Chinese authors, publishers and literary anecdotes. The homepage lists three featured writers, including Yan Lianke, author of Serve the People and several other high-profile works about the darker side of Chinese society; and Wang Xiaobo, a brilliant fiction writer who maintains a cult following even after his death 10 years ago. The site also includes sample translations of Golden Age by Wang, who is a favourite author of the three translators. Website co-founder Abrahamsen admits that posting sample translations is about more than just venting frustration or correcting bad literary renditions already out there. It is also a way to raise the profiles of translators. 'I think translators here can connect more directly with the local authors because we're living in the same environment and have experienced some of the things these authors are writing about,' says Abrahamsen who, like his colleagues, came to China on a whim to study Chinese before falling in love with fiction. Those working locally are in a much better position to sit down and talk to the authors about their work, ideally leading to more nuanced translations than are otherwise possible, he adds. Translators living in China are too often under the radar, Carter says, although a new generation is steadily raising its profile and is well positioned to translate as-yet-undiscovered mainland authors. 'In the past, translation of Chinese literature was done by overseas scholars with full-time jobs,' says Carter, who arrived in China in 1996. 'Now, the small wave of young western writers and translators who came to study Chinese 10 or 15 years ago has come of age.' Their prospects are buoyed by changing attitudes in the international literary market, as shown by the string of foreign publishers rushing to set up regional offices in the hope of finding the next Haruki Murakami in China. These include Penguin, HarperCollins and Macmillan. The US$100,000 Penguin paid for the English rights to Jiang Rong's best-selling epic Wolf Totem, which went on to win the Man Asian Literary Prize in November, is further evidence of the growing interest in Chinese books. In Boston, public radio website The World is setting up a China books page (theworld.org) that, according to its creator William Marx, will include reviews of books by Yu Hua and Zhu Wen, as well as interviews with the likes of Gao Xingjian, the Nobel prize-winning author of Soul Mountain. 'What I want my online magazine to do is get the word out about Chinese books in translation by connecting them with what is happening in world news,' says Marx. Mainstream western media tends to ignore works in translation, he adds, and this is something he wants to change. Although it has been in business for a few months only the Paper Republic website has claimed some early success in generating interest among publishers. Carter is negotiating a deal with Constable and Robinson to translate Yan Lianke's latest novel, Dream of the Ding Village, after being approached by the British publisher. Hong Kong-based literary agency Creative Work has been recruiting Chinese authors, among them Feng Tang, since 2006. 'Feng is very humorous, [his writing] is light, funny and of a style that hasn't come out of the mainland before,' says Marysia Jusczakiewicz, Creative Work's head literary agent, who is also representing Carter as a translator. Jusczakiewicz adds she's encouraged by Wolf Totem's recent triumph. 'I hope it will take away some of the fear some publishers have of works in translation,' she says.