Unreal City: A Chinese Poet in Auckland


Yang Lian, translated by Hilary Chung & Jacob Edmond with Brian Holton, edited & introduced by Jacob Edmond & Hilary Chung

*No longer in print


‘This books shows that writing between cultures opens up several possibilities, not in the least through the working of translation. Through translation, these poems appear woven into both the New Zealand and Chinese poetic traditions, allowing these two countries' poetry to find moments of communion. These annotated translations are . . . a welcome contribution to . . . the literatures and cultures of China and New Zealand.' – Cosima Bruno, The China Quarterly


Yang Lian is a celebrated Chinese poet and essayist widely known inside and outside China.

After first becoming known in China as one of the leading writers of the new, modernist-style ‘misty’ poetry, he arrived in Auckland in 1989 and was there at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Unable to return to China Yang began in this strange distant foreign city the first stage of a life in exile. He became a New Zealand citizen and was based in Auckland for four traumatic years which were extremely productive and made his name internationally.

Unreal City presents in a new English translation a selection of poems from this period as well as a number of essays, appearing in English for the first time, which meditate upon the experience of living in Auckland from a startling fresh perspective. These fascinating and moving texts are accompanied by notes and an introduction which establishes the pivotal role of Yang’s New Zealand work in the transformation of one of China’s leading poets into a major figure in world literature.



Yang Lian is based in London with his wife, the novelist Yo Yo. He is a prominent figure in world poetry, is said to have been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize, and has won numerous international awards including the prestigious Flaiano International Prize for Poetry in 1999. His work is published in many languages. Hilary Chung was educated at Cambridge (MA) and Durham (MA, PhD) in England, has taught at the University of Sheffield, and is a lecturer in Asian Studies at the University of Auckland; Jacob Edmond recently completed a doctorate in comparative literature on ‘The Experimental Poetry of American poet Lyn Hejinian, Chinese/New Zealand poet Yang Lian and Arkadii Dragomoshchenko of the former Soviet Union’ and teaches at the University of Otago.


March 2006, 220 x 165 mm, 104 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869403546, $27.99