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Beijing Coma [Hardcover]

Ma Jian , Flora Drew
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 May 2008
As the millennium draws near, Dai Wei, a pro-democracy protestor who was shot during the demonstration at Tiananmen Square in 1989, has been in a coma for almost a decade. As he wakes, he realises 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.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 586 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (27 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374110174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374110178
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,588,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"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" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Like all the most powerful novels, Beijing Coma is deceptively simple... both profoundly poignant and unexpectedly uplifting' --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling and moving, an unforgettable book 23 Jun 2009
Beijing Coma is both enthralling and tremendously moving. Beautifully and lucidly written, it manages to combine the panoramic sweep of the Beijing student movement with an intensely personal view of the minutiae of the events of 1989. Although the book bears the usual disclaimers - any resemblance with persons living or dead is purely coincidental, etc, I loved how so many of the main players are perfectly recognisable, so that fictional Ke Xi is so obviously student leader Wu'er Kaixi and Bai Ling is clearly Tiananmen student commander-in-Chief Chai Ling (although Chai Ling was not run over by a tank), and so on. Other students are amalgams of real life individuals, but many are still identifiable.

The events themselves are detailed and historically accurate. While capturing all the headiness of the student movement as it grew, the book reveals more than the newspaper reports at the time ever did about the squabbles and infighting among students, right up to the night of the army's final onslaught on the square and the horrors that ensued.

But Gripping as it is, this is not just a novel about the student movement and the 1989 massacre, it is also about the massive changes in Beijing, including the lives of many of the students after Tiananmen. Most touching of all, it is the story of the protagonist's mother, whose predicament is so vividly threaded through the narrative. She is buffeted by so many political pendulum swings, yet deep down continues to believe in Communism. Only after Tiananmen are her beliefs shattered. She is the Chinese Everywoman of the 1990s and 2000s, like so many of her generation, unable to benefit from the Chinese economic miracle around her.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlgihtening and Horrifying 8 Jun 2009
This book provided me with a wealth of knowledge about the experiences of students in Tianamen Square in 1989. I feel enlightened for reading it. I felt for the characters and was moved by Ma Jian's writing. It is very long and not always gripping, however, particularly at the beginning. I am glad that I ploughed through and would encourage everyone to do the same.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom of thought: a modern classic 18 May 2008
By Petrolhead VINE VOICE
Every now and again a book comes along that defines the spirit of a great moment in history: All Quiet on the Western Front, Doctor Zhivago, maybe Red Star over China. But until now there has apparently been nothing that encapsulates the idealism, chaos and horror of the 1989 Tiananmen protests and massacre. Beijing Coma may well be the epic novel that China-watchers have been waiting for.

Just like Doctor Zhivago, Beijing Coma is too close to the bone for the Communist censors and will remain banned for many years in the author's home country. But no matter - the genie is out of the bottle. China's porous borders, vast diaspora and insatiable appetite for self-examination will ensure that Ma Jian's book will slowly seep into China's consciousness, reminding readers of the cracks in the system that the Communist leadership can only camouflage with economic miracles and Olympic fanfare - Beijing's bread and circuses.

On the face of it, Beijing Coma might seem a depressing read. The story of doomed youth is told through the memories of comatose narrator Dai Wei, who lies immobile but conscious, having been felled by a policeman's bullet during the crackdown. But the narrative is anything but stagnant, as it chops rapidly between the doomed student protests and the conversations Dai Wei overhears over the years lying in his mother's apartment, as he waits for his brain to die or his body to move. The pacy dual narrative structure weaves pre- and post-Tiananmen events together as we hurtle towards the fateful conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily top of my list 6 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Heartfelt and riveting. In spite of its size, quite unputdownable. Leaves you with a sense of tragedy and anger against governments.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed account with gripping Narrative 21 Jun 2014
By Narut
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I considered this book to a be a very detailed account of events that transpired before and during the Tienanmen square. More importantly, it also showcases the character's childhood and their way of life after the political crackdown of the cultural revolution. I think that this book is actually very important for anyone not familiar with the culture to get a real inside look into Chinese culture. It certainly fits in with the account that my grandparents have told me when they escaped China.

Its only let down is that I felt the narrative ended too abruptly after building up so much tensions throughout the book. Overall though, a great book that will resonates with you for a long time
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5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books I ever read 4 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It gives us an insight in a China that is unknown to most of us. Especially the student world and the way people are living... The almost 700 pages book never bores one minute... I can only recommend it !!
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5.0 out of 5 stars unforgetable 29 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was very suprised to see so many negative reviews of this book because it is an absolute masterpiece. It is very detailed but I feel that this adds to the story and I feel every little detail is important and necessary and in fact I found it very easy to read. I don't need to give a synopsis of the story except to say that it the story told through the thoughts of a comatose victim of the brutal crackdown on the 4th June 1989 of the student pro democracy movement in Tiananmen Sqaure (I'm sure we all remember of the man trying to stop the tanks by standing in front of them). We also learn a lot about China. I can only say to everyone that you must all try to perservere with this book as it is more than worth it. Absolutely unforgetable!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective
"Beijing Coma" has given me new insights into China's recent history, although not quite in the way I had expected. Read more
Published 16 months ago by K Nachtergaele
5.0 out of 5 stars MOVING NOVEL
I enjoyed this novel.It was engrossing and very well written.He has two parts before the student revolution amd Tinamen Square,and afterwards. Read more
Published on 30 Oct 2011 by bibliophile
5.0 out of 5 stars Tiananmen Square - almost unbelievable
Approximately 1996 I saw a fantasticTV-program about China. The main issue was the student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square 1989. Read more
Published on 12 Dec 2010 by Tove Kolle
1.0 out of 5 stars Bejing yawn
I am really unable to give a proper review as I could not get very far with the book which was our club choice this month. Read more
Published on 9 Nov 2010 by Hels
5.0 out of 5 stars Both moving and historic
I thought Beijing Coma was very well written. It weaves together two stories. Firstly, that of the protagonist's early life and his perspective of the events leading up to and... Read more
Published on 1 Oct 2010 by Monti
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much information
I couldn't finish this book. One of the reviews on the front of the book says 'epic in scope and intimate in detail' it's the sheer level of unnecessary detail that got me. Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2010 by Ms. J. C. Caswell
2.0 out of 5 stars Beijing Coma by Ma Jian
I bought this for my wife after she had enjoyed Jian's autobiographical account of China (Red Dust). Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2009 by David Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning tale, weaving personal narrative and national histories
Absolutely stunning - spanning recent Chinese political history yet maintaining a personal edge that takes you with the tale. Read more
Published on 15 July 2009 by Sinophile
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