The Key to China

Say what you like about Mao, he did make it remarkably easy to keep up with developments in Chinese fiction. Thanks to his proscriptions on creative freedom, fictional output fell precipitously during his reign. An average of eight, increasingly socialist realist novels were published each year between 1949 and 1966. That figure shrank further during the Cultural Revolution. Staying abreast of translations was simpler still: until the early 1980s, it was virtually impossible for a mainland Chinese writer to strike up an independent relationship with a western translator. Anglophone readers had to rely on translations of establishment authors published by Beijing’s Foreign Languages Press.