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.
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).
Los Angeles Times - Christine Smallwood Beijing Coma is a strange, and long, book, by turns dull and riveting. Plot alone isn't enough to sustain interest: We all know how the story ends. What holds our attention, rather, is the fickleness and weakness of human nature. By the time martial law is declared, the individual players have become a hydra, a single body with many barking heads. Ma says that "all the characters in this book are just one character"; they have "emerged from the same background and education and are in fact indistinguishable.
Though this story is sometimes difficult to follow as it jumps between the past and the present, Ma brings a fresh sense of awareness of the Tiananmen tragedy to a new generation.
Ma Jian evokes the horrors of an oppressive regime in minute, gruesome detail.
Starred Review. A complex, confrontational, demanding - and ultimately rewarding - work.
The Observer (UK) - Chandrahas Choudhury
A vibrant collage of intertwined scenes from Dai Wei's past and present life, the novel is simultaneously a large-scale portrait of citizens writhing in the grip of the party and the state and a strikingly intimate study of the fragility of the body and the persistence of self and memory.
The Times (UK) - Jonathan Fenby
The book is a huge achievement, mixing imagination and fact...finely written and translated, with beautifully controlled interaction between the actors, the book's account of life and love in the square in 1989 brings out the complexity of the movement that reached well beyond the traditional description of it as a pro-democracy revolt.
The Telegraph (UK) - Tash Aw
Once in a while - perhaps every 10 years, or even a generation - a novel comes along that profoundly questions the way we look at the world and at ourselves. Beijing Coma is a poetic examination, not just of a country at a defining moment in its history but of the universal right to remember and to hope. It is, in every sense, a landmark.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by nueva a masterpeice Bejing Coma is masterful,beautiful,and tells a cruel story. Excellently and poetically written, at the same time revealing the horrors of Mao's total infliction of inhumanity upon the Chinese people.the development of the Tiananmen square uprising... Read More
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 years older
than most of them. Their passion and idealism impressed but also worried me.
Denied knowledge of their own history, they didn't know that in China political
protests always end in a bloodbath.
When the government quelled the protests with the Tiananmen Massacre on June...
A moving, realistic, but always hopeful narrative novel of the Wu family - father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao - as they fully sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begin a new, free life in the United States.
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