"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."
""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"
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 politicised. 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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