This season on Underreported with Nicholas Lemann, we’re focusing on The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It Matters. Our three-part series will explore not only the content of the book, but why it is worth our time and attention.

In The Subplot, journalist and critic Megan Walsh takes the reader on a lively journey through the last two decades of China’s literary landscape, illustrating the country’s complex relationship between art and politics. She also dispels assumptions Westerners make about censorship, and opens up a view of Chinese society that you don’t see through conventional news coverage.

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Listen to the series

Episode One
An Open Talk on Censorship in China: A Conversation with Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Before we speak to Megan Walsh herself in upcoming episodes, we want to set the stage, so we’re joined by Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine. He’s one of America’s leading China specialists, and has published several important books, including Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, also published by Columbia Global Reports. There’s no better guest to help us wade into the intricate and nuanced realities of China, a country that the US has locked in its gaze.

episode 1 transcript

Episode Two
The Nuanced Literary Voices in China: A Conversation with Megan Walsh and Rosie Blau
This is two of our three-part series on the book The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It Matters. China is often seen as a monolith, especially by Westerners who think they know how Chinese citizens live, and even what their ideals are. But we want to dispel the master narrative. In her book, author Megan Walsh offers up a wide, nuanced variety of Chinese writing previously confined to Chinese readers. The works of fiction she has managed to uncover help us to better understand the country and its people.

This episode, we're joined by Megan, as well as Rosie Blau, editor of 1843 magazine, and contributor to The Economist.

episode 2 transcript

Episode Three
The Stories Chinese Fiction Reveals: A Conversation with Megan Walsh
In The Subplot, journalist and critic Megan Walsh takes her readers on a journey through the works of Chinese fiction. Works that are otherwise difficult for the rest of the world to access. Today, she joins us to share what she found out, and how she knew there was a bigger story to tell about fiction writing in China.

This is the last of our three-part series on the book The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It Matters.

episode 3 transcript

Produced by Tracey Madigan
Associate producer Liann Herder
Audio engineer John Weppler

We want to thank the Mellon Foundation and its support for this podcast.


About Underreported with Nicholas Lemann

Since 2015, Columbia Global Reports has been providing depth and clarity on global issues that are underreported. We don’t just publish books; we use books to start conversations about topics that weren’t getting the attention they deserved. At least, until we took them on. This podcast is your audio connection to these important topics.

About Nicholas Lemann

Nicholas Lemann is host of Underreported and director of Columbia Global Reports.

He's Dean Emeritus of Columbia Journalism School, a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a staff writer for The New Yorker. The author of several highly acclaimed books, his most recent is Transaction Man.

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