A talent for slicing through pretension with the precision of a sushi knife

Weekend Australian about Eat Me

Linda jaivin
Linda jaivin

About Linda Jaivin

I’m the author of twelve books (seven novels and four book-length works of non-fiction. It includes the Quarterly Essay Found in Translation: In Praise of a Plural World). My most recent novel is The Empress Lover, and my most recent non-fiction book is  The Shortest History of China. My latest book is The Shortest History of China (yes, really), published May 2021.

Just as I love reading all kinds of books and essays, I enjoy writing across a great variety of forms and about topics. I write about arts, sexuality, politics and society as well as cultural criticism. I’ve been published in a number of magazines and anthologies. I’m also a public speaker and have been a frequent participant in writers festivals. I also speak at other forums.

Bio Linda Jaivin by jane Cornelius
The photo was taken by fellow author Jane Cornelius at the Bateman’s Bay Writers Festival June 2015


There are a number of issues that are close to my heart. One is justice for and fair treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. I was a regular visitor to asylum seekers in the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney from 2001-2005. I am still stay in touch with a number of the people I got to know there. Most of them are now Australian citizens. This issue has inspired me to write short stories (you can read ‘The Promised Land‘ free here), a novel (The Infernal Optimist), essays and plays, Seeking Djira and Halal el Mashakel, the latter of which was published in the Currency Press anthology Staging Asylum.


China is another very big topic for me. I studied Asian History at Brown University, after which I continued my study of the Chinese language in Taiwan. I lived in Hong Kong and Beijing as well. My first trip to mainland China was in 1979. Several of my books are about or inspired by China: The Shortest History of China, of course, as well as the memoir The Monkey and the Dragon, and the novels A Most Immoral Woman and The Empress Lover and BeijingI also do literary and film translation from Chinese. Among the films I’ve subtitled are Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine, Zhang Yimou’s Hero and Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster. I’m an associate of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University and a co-editor of the  China Story Yearbook.

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I am a proud member of Amnesty InternationalSydney Pen, the Australian Society of Authors, the Australian Writers Guild, Asia Pacific Writers and Translators, and the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).

I am a proud member of Australia Reads Ambassador