- Publisher: CHATTO & WINDUS
- Format: Hardback | 592 pages
- Dimensions: 157mm x 240mm x 38mm | 846g
- Publication date: 1 May 2008
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0701178078
- ISBN 13: 9780701178079
- Sales rank: 449,450
May 1989. Tens of thousands of students are camped out in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. But what started as a united protest at the slow pace of their government's political reform has begun to lose direction: people from all over China are coming to join the demonstration, but the students at its heart are confused by the influence they suddenly wield, and riven by petty in-fighting. One of them, Dai Wei, argues with about everything from democracy to the distribution of food to protestors, little knowing that, on 4 June, a soldier will shoot a bullet into his head, sending him into a deep coma.As Dai Wei lies immobile in his mother's Beijing flat: his body has become his prison, but his memories offer a means of escape. We watch him fall in love, drop out of school, arrive at university - and become increasingly politicized. From his coma, Dai Wei can't see or move but he can hear what's happening in the world beyond: his mother's struggle to keep him alive; the government's attempt to suppress all memory of the Tiananmen massacre; his friends' involvement in China's frenetic capitalism. As the almost minute-by-minute chronicling of the lead-up to his shooting becomes ever more intense, the reader is caught in a gripping emotional journey where the boundaries between life and death are increasingly blurred.
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Ma Jian was born in Qingdao, China in 1953. He worked as a watch-mender and a painter of propaganda boards and was assigned a job as a photojournalist for a state-run magazine. At the age of thirty, Ma Jian left work and travelled for three years across China, a journey he later described in his book Red Dust, winner of the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award 2002. He left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987 but continued to travel to China, notably to support the pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989. After the hand-over of Hong Kong he moved to Germany and then London, where he now lives.
"Once in a while - perhaps every 10 years, or even every generation - a novel appears 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 work of fiction" -- Tash Aw, "Daily Telegraph" "Epic in scope but intimate in feeling ... magnificent" -- Tom Deveson, "The Times" "Simultaneously a large-scale portrait of citizens writing 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" -- Chandrahas Choudhury, "Observer" "[Beijing Coma] merits the term 'masterpiece'. . . . [T]he narrative strategy succeeds at creating suspense page after page and lends a poignant, inexorable flavour to the events after the massacre." -- "The Vancouver Sun" "A work of fiction so realistic that it can be read as a tragic memoir of a time of hope, turmoil and atrocity. . . . An immaculate lesson in history, it is a vivid reminder that all things change and all is swept away." -- "The Owen Sound Sun Times " "Already notorious for writing novels banned in his homeland due to their criticism of China's policies on human rights and Tibet, the now London-based Ma Jian here launches his most sustained and intricate indictment of his former country. . . . As novelist, he painstakingly recreates the cycle of idealism, arrogance, confusion and despair that characterized the experience of demonstrators on the ground in [Tiananmen] square." -- "Toronto Star ""[Beijing Coma] will make wavesacross the world. . . . Ma combines a gift for densely detailed, panoramic fiction with a resonant prophetic voice. . . . Beijing Coma" "may have huge documentary value, but it grips and moves as epic fiction above all . . . Beijing Coma has the visceral physicality that stamps all of Ma Jian's work. He is a poet of the body in all its ecstasies, embarrassments and agonies." -- "The Independant" "A huge achievement . . . a landmark account through fiction of a country whose rise has amazed the world, but which remains cloaked in shadows. . . . finely written and translated." -- "The Times ""This is an epic yet intimate work that deserves to be recognised and to endure as "the "great Tiananmen novel." -- "Financial Times ""This timely yet dazzling piece of fiction will be seen simply for what it is: a modern literary masterpiece." -- "Sunday Express ""This vivid, pungent, often blackly funny book is a mighty gesture of remembrance against the encroaching forces of silence." -- "Guardian ""Astonishingly brave... the most important Chinese book since Wild Swans." -- "London Lite" "[A] bleak, wrenching generational saga . . . Ma Jian achieves startling effects through Dai Wei's dispassionate narration, making one man's felled body a symbol of lost possibility." -- "Publishers Weekly ""One of the most important and courageous voices in Chinese literature." -- Gao Xingjian, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature "Ma Jian is arguably his country's essential writer." -- "The Globe and Mail"