The Subplot

The Subplot
What China Is Reading and Why It Matters

What does contemporary China’s diverse and exciting fiction tell us about its culture, and the relationship between art and politics?

The Subplot takes us on a lively journey through a literary landscape like you’ve never seen before: a vast migrant-worker poetry movement, homoerotic romances by “rotten girls,” swaggering literary popstars, millionaire e-writers churning out the longest-ever novels, underground comics, the surreal works of Yu Hua, Yan Lianke, and Nobel-laureate Mo Yan, and what is widely hailed as a golden-age of sci-fi. Chinese online fiction is now the largest publishing platform in the world.

Fueled by her passionate engagement with the arts and ideas of China’s people, Megan Walsh, a brilliant young critic, shows us why it's important to finally pay attention to Chinese fiction—an exuberant drama that illustrates the complex relationship between art and politics, one that is increasingly shaping the West as well. Turns out, writers write neither what their government nor foreign readers want or expect, as they work on a different wavelength to keep alive ideas and events that are censored by the propaganda machine. The Subplot vividly captures the way in which literature offers an alternative—perhaps truer—way to understanding the contradictions that make up China itself.

Read Nicholas Lemann’s Letter to the Reader

The Subplot
  • ISBN: 9781735913667
  • Price: $16.00
  • E-book ISBN: 9781735913674
  • On Sale: February 8, 2022
  • Pages: 136


“A jaw-dropping look at what mainland Chinese are reading right now. Megan Walsh tells us why, in this time of China’s economic ascension, its literature is both liberating—and soul-crushing.” —Jan Wong, author of Red China Blues

About the author

Megan Walsh

Megan Walsh is a journalist and writer who specializes in Chinese literature and film. She has lived in Beijing and Taipei, and holds a masters in Chinese Studies from SOAS. Her work has appeared in The New Statesman, Lithub, and The Wall Street Journal, and she was on the books desk at The Times of London, where she reported on contemporary art and literature in China, Russia, Cuba, and northern Iraq. She lives in London.