Chinese novels are available

These Are The Best Modern Chinese Novels In English

Contemporary Chinese literature is one of the richest and most diverse works in the world and, like Chinese film and art, enjoys an ambiguous relationship with the state. Sometimes encouraged, sometimes condemned by the Chinese government, there are more than a few cases of artistic expression that steal an author's freedom. When the Chinese writer Mo Yan received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012, Western critics complained that his voice was too safe or fake. In a way, it seems like Chinese writing can't win in the West, always either too shallow or too specific to its culture. Make no mistake, Chinese literature is the literature of the moment, and its breadth includes science fiction, comedy, and historical drama. Comparatively few of these works are currently available in English, but what is there serves as a taste of what contemporary Chinese fiction has to offer. Eight of the best modern Chinese novels (and a collection of short stories) are available in English below.

Cixin Liu's three-body problem

The first of a trilogy by the science fiction writer Cixin Liu, who was hugely successful Three-body problem combines an alien invasion with the story of the Cultural Revolution, which concerns the search for an intelligent life and the fragmentation of society by a secret military organization.

Courtesy Tor Books

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

The Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li is at home here (where she is editor of the magazine A public space is) as well as popular abroad, as her work is equally historical stories from China and contemporary Chinese diaspora. In The Vagrants this takes the form of a political prisoner family and the shock waves its story spreads in a Beijing torn between communism and the democratic wall movement.

Courtesy Random House

Frontier from Can Xue

The imitable Can Xue (a pseudonym means "dirty snow, leftover snow") is China's answer to Kafka and Borges, though Can Xue is perhaps even stranger. Frontier is about a strange journey to the mysterious Pebble City, whose streets are full of wolves and which are said to be a garden of earthly paradise. With its surreal atmosphere and dreamy prose, it's an equally good place to begin the unique Can Xue reading experience.

Courtesy Open Brief

Red Sorghum from Mo Yan

Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature and his classic family novel Red sorghum is a big reason for that. Beginning in 1923 through 1976, he follows three generations of the Shandong family, who started out as winemakers and gradually became resistance fighters. With its ground-level depiction of the Cultural Revolution and the changing relationship between China and Japan, it is widely regarded as one of China's great novels.

Courtesy Penguin Books

Waiting for Ha Jin

Waiting by Sino-American novelist Ha Jin won the National Book Award for slowly burning a story about a doctor divided between two women, one with New China and the other with the ancient traditions of his people. Its universal conflict between society and the values ​​of the individual means that it transcends the specific Chinese history that influences it.

Courtesy Vintage

Ma Jian's dark path

The disgusting Chinese writer Ma Jian tells the gritty story of rural families being killed by the government's one-child policy in The dark street torn apart, informed by the author's own travels in southwestern China. When a family chooses to fight politics, the story opens of a devastating tragedy of brutal cruelty and the strength of ordinary people who oppose injustice.

Courtesy Penguin Books

The seventh day of Yu Hua

Probably the most successful and best-known novel by Yu Hua in English, The seventh day is the story of Yang Fei, a foundling who grew up in the Chinese countryside becomes an outsider of his society only to die and roam the afterlife and see again the people he has lost in the course of his life. The result is a mixture of China's panoramic history with all its ups and downs.

Courtesy Anchor

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang

Eileen Chang is a beloved short story writer in her native China and NYRB Classics "collection Love in a fallen city presents English-speaking readers their lyrical style and the longing of their protagonists, both on the mainland and in Taiwan. These stories of love and longing combine extremely contemporary problems with a classical sensitivity, fragile and searching in their subjects and tone, making disturbing psychological portraits of women between independence and family life.

Courtesy NYRB Classics

Geling Yan's prodigal daughter

Well known in China, Geling Yan is probably known in the West as the author of Xiu-Xiu: The girl sent leading to a film by became twin peaks 'Joan Chen. But the Lost daughter of happiness could be her best novel, with her intrepid portrayal of anti-Chinese sentiment in early San Francisco and how it affected the lives of a colorful collection of first wave immigrants.

Courtesy of Hachette Books


Author: Byron White

Byron White is a 28 year old journalist. Not apologetic music person. Social media fanatic. Researcher. Food junkie. Hardcore internet buff.