How can a novel about the massacre of hundreds of people narrated
by a man in a coma be beautiful, even life-affirming? Let me not mislead you;
this is a painful novel, filled with brutality and horror. It would be
impossible to read, were it not for the protagonist's voice, filled with the
light of vivid memories and the sweet ache of youth. Beijing Coma
pages of fiction based on facts too awful to bear, but the way Ma Jian tells the
story makes the novel hard to put down, even when it's painful to read.
Comatose and dead to the world for ten years, Dai Wei has become little else
than a collection of memories. Trapped in the prison of his body, he dives into
the past and tries to make sense of his claustrophobic present. In the first
part of the book he focuses alternately on his father's persecution during the
Cultural Revolution and...
Beyond the Book
Ma Jian on Beijing Coma
In April 1989, I left Hong Kong, where I'd been living in self-imposed exile
for two years, and caught a train back home to Beijing. Photographs of crowds
marching through the dusty streets of the capital had been plastered across the
world's newspapers. Chinese students had launched a movement for freedom and
democracy. I wanted to be part of it. At last, it seemed as though Communist
China was changing.
For six weeks, I joined the students on their marches, crashed out in their
cramped dormitories, shared their makeshift tents during their occupation of
Tiananmen Square. I watched them stage a mass hunger strike, dance to Simon and
Garfunkel, fall in love, engage in futile power struggles. I was ten...