Dai Wei has been unconscious for almost a decade. A medical student and a pro-democracy protestor in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, he was struck by a soldiers bullet and fell into a deep coma. As soon as the hospital authorities discovered that he had been an activist, his mother was forced to take him home. She allowed pharmacists access to his body and sold his urine and his left kidney to fund special treatment from Master Yao, a member of the outlawed Falun Gong sect. But during a government crackdown, the Master was arrested, and Dai Wais motherwho had fallen in love with himlost her mind.
As the millennium draws near, a sparrow flies through the window and lands on Dai Weis naked chest, a sign that he must emerge from his coma. But China has also undergone a massive transformation while Dai Wei lay unconscious. As he prepares to take leave of his old metal bed, Dai Wei realizes that the rich, imaginative world afforded to him as a coma patient is a startling contrast with the death-in-life of the world outside.
At once a powerful allegory of a rising China, racked by contradictions, and a seminal examination of the Tiananmen Square protests, Beijing Coma is Ma Jians masterpiece. Spiked with dark wit, poetic beauty, and deep rage, this extraordinary novel confirms his place as one of the worlds most significant living writers.
Through the gaping hole where the covered balcony used to be, you see the bulldozed locust tree slowly begin to rise again. This is a clear sign that from now on youre going to have to take your life seriously.
You reach for a pillow and tuck it under your shoulders, propping up your head so that the blood in your brain can flow back down into your heart, allowing your thoughts to clear a little. Your mother used to prop you up like that from time to time.
Silvery mornings are always filled with new intentions. But today is the first day of the new millennium, so the dawn is thicker with them than ever. Although the winter frosts havent set in yet, the soft breeze blowing on your face feels very cold.
A smell of urine still hangs in the room. It seeps from your pores when the sunlight falls on your skin.
You gaze outside. The morning air isnt rising from the ground as it did yesterday. Instead, its falling from the sky onto ...
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 is 600 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.
(Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
Full Review (1148 words).
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 ...
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