Chinese fiction writer Qian Zhongshu (L) and his novel "Fortress Besieged".
"Fortress Besieged", the most famous novel of celebrated Chinese fiction writer Qian Zhongshu, has been digitized, 70 years after it was first published.
On Thursday, digital reading platform iReader and the country's largest publishing institution, the People's Literature Publishing House, launched the licensed e-version of the novel allowing bookworms and novel enthusiasts to enjoy one of the masterpieces of 20th Century Chinese literature at the touch of a fingertip.
"The e-book of 'Fortress Besieged' by iReader is the licensed copy, and the other versions on the market are pirated," Zang Yongqing, director of the People's Literature Publishing House, said in an interview with China News.
"We are confident in the youngsters' reading standards. The classic novel has been favored by generations of young people," Zang noted.
But getting exclusive rights for the digital copy came at the hefty price tag of one million yuan – although that's a small price for giving faith in ethical and legal distribution of copyrighted works.
You Ting, vice president of iReader said, "We hope to give the industry a positive reputation through this opportunity to promote the digitization of classic works and create a friendly environment for digital copyright efforts."
Since its re-publication in 1980 by the same publishing house, the novel enjoyed popularity among readers thanks to its humorous social commentary about middle-class families in China in the 1930s.
The printed novel weathered severe infringement, and its e-version was not immune either.
"Fortress Besieged" is the only full-length novel by Qian Zhongshu, a renowned Chinese scholar, author and poet who is arguably the most prominent man of letters in 20th-century China.
With the support of his wife Yang Jiang, Qian embarked on a literary journey in 1944 and finished his writing two year later, in 1946. The following year, the novel was published in Shanghai.
The novel depicts a group portrait of intellectuals in the late 1930s during the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. It was adapted into TV series in 1990.
The book's title is based on a French proverb by author Pierre-Marie Quitard who said, "Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out."
The novel has been translated into many languages.
The English version was translated by Nathan K. Mao and Jeanne Kelly in 1979, and was published by the Indiana University Press on April 1980. After several editions, the latest version was published by Penguin Classics in 2006.