Harvill Secker is to publish Nanjing Heroes, a novella by Chinese author Yan Geling, which is currently being made into a film starring Christian Bale.
Editor-at-large Rebecca Carter acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to two books through Marysia Juszczakiewicz at Peony Literary Agency.
Nanjing Heroes, to be published in February 2012, follows an American priest and his attempt to shelter a group of Chinese schoolgirls from Japanese invaders. Translation rights, held by Peony, have sold so far in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Vietnam.
The second novel, Little Aunt Crane, is still to have its publication date confirmed. It begins at the end of the Second World War and Japan's withdrawal from China, and focuses on a Japanese girl who gets left behind and sold to a Chinese family.
Carter said: "Geling's work is a revelation to me. Her understanding of a character, her ability to make historical events seem as if they are unfolding in front of the reader, and the skill with which she tells a story are all incredibly exciting. I can see exactly why [director] Zhang Yimou wanted to make the film of Nanjing Heroes . . .
"Geling is one of China's most important contemporary writers and it is high time she was better known in the UK."
Geling served with the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution, and she published her first novel in 1985. She currently lives in Berlin.