REPUBLISHED ON THE 30th ANNIVERSARY OF THE TIANANMEN MASSACRE, WITH A NEW AFTERWORD FROM THE AUTHOR AND A NEW COVER BY AI WEIWEI
Beijing Coma is Ma Jian’s masterpiece. Spiked with dark wit, poetic beauty and deep rage, it takes the life, and near-death, of one young student to create a dazzling and excoriating novel about contemporary China
‘A landmark work of fiction’ Daily Telegraph
‘A modern literary masterpiece’ Sunday Express
Dai Wei lies in his bedroom, a prisoner in his body, after he was shot in the head at the Tiananmen Square protest ten years earlier and left in a coma. As his mother tends to him, and his friends bring news of their lives in an almost unrecognisable China, Dai Wei escapes into his memories, weaving together the events that took him from his harsh childhood in the last years of the Cultural Revolution to his student days at Beijing University.
As the 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.
‘Beijing Coma is one of the finest and most important novels to have been written in this century’ Chris Patten
The outcome of this bleak, wrenching generational saga from Ma Jian (Stick Out Your Tongue and The Noodle Maker) is known from early on: the politicization of Dai Wei, a diligent molecular biology Ph.D. student at Beijing University, ends in Tiananmen Square with a bullet striking him in the head. As the book opens, Dai Wei is just waking from a coma that has continued over 10 years following the June 4, 1989, massacre still apparently unconscious, but actually aware of his surroundings. The narrative then alternates between Dai Wei's very conscious observations as a nonresponsive ''vegetable'' over the years of his coma, and his childhood and student life. Ma Jian evokes the horrors of an oppressive regime in minute, gruesome detail, particularly in quotidian scenes of his mother's attempts to care for Dai Wei, which eventually lead her to a member of the banned Falun Gong movement. The book's behind-the-scenes portrayal of the nascent student movement hinges on repetitious ideological bickering and sexual power plays. Lengthy expositions of Dai Wei's condition slow the book further, but Ma Jian achieves startling effects through Dai Wei's dispassionate narration, making one man's felled body a symbol of lost possibility.