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Beijing Coma by Ma Jian
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Beijing Coma (2008)

by Ma Jian

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317835,016 (3.69)36
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It took a lot of perseverance (and a long break halfway through) to get through this book, but I think it was worth it in the end. Paints a horrifying picture of Communist China before and after Tienanmen Square. ( )
  purplehena | Mar 31, 2013 |
A fascinating portrait of China and its recent history. Beijing Coma is told through the eyes of Dai Wei, a student protester who falls into a coma after the Tienanmen Square protest of 1989. Dai Wei's recounting of the energy of the student protesters brings their movement to life and details of life in China highlight the practices the students were fighting against. However, one of the most interesting things about this novel is the depiction of the changes China experienced after the Tienanmen Square protest. Despite his coma, Dai Wei hears of the changes, of the new kinds of jobs, of new technologies, and the transformation of China he grew up in. I would recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in China today. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jan 6, 2012 |
Ma Jian’s “Beijing Coma” traces the events leading up to the Tiananmen Square massacre through the eyes of one of its victms. Dai Wei, shot in the head, and trapped in a coma remembers his life while China continues to undergo rapid change. Remembering his father’s imprisonment during China’s Cultural Revolution, he traces the brutality of life in China under a repressive government. He recalls hustling in China’s emerging economy and the beginnings of economic liberalization, and provides an account of being a Beijing Univeristy student during the Tiananmen Square movement.

Dai Wei, as head of security for the student movement, provides perspectives on the passionate, yet contentious student leadership, filled with power struggles and a doomed romanticism. Ma Jian’s writing captures the confusion and excitement of being in the movement, and the bulk of the novel recounts the hunger strike and days leading up to the Tiananmen Square massacre. The paranoia and ruthlessness of the government is exposed while the irrationality and anger of the students is pursued as well. The ending sequence of Beijing Coma is shocking for the violence used against students protesting for Democracy. Ma Jian, also a participant in the movement, creates an admirable telling of a tale China would like to forget.

Beijing Coma has two narrative streams, the flashbacks to the student movement, and Dai Wei’s life in a coma cared for by his mother. Trapped in his body, but able to hear, Dai Wei spends ten years in bed. Visited by friends, he discovers the sudden economic changes China undergoes, while hearing which friends have become wealthy and which continue to suffer under China’s regime. As a student protestor, his mother is forbidden to seek official medical care for her son and is routinely visited by the security bureau. Her search for alternative treatments eventually leads her to the Falun Gong, once again exposing the family to the government’s repressive practices. With the family apartment about to be bull – dozed for a new shopping mall in preparation for the Beijing Olympics, the sense of progress and need for cohesiveness at all costs is given, while Beijing Coma’s dark humor and tragic telling of China’s modern history lingers.

Excerpt from my review at
http://poetsandpolicymakers.com/ ( )
  brianjungwi | Sep 30, 2010 |
This is not a book for the faint hearted. Dai Wei lies in a coma after being shot in the head during the Tiananmen Square massacre. As a scientist, he is aware of the degradation of his body with clinical detail. His present -- tended by his faltering mother -- merges with his past, especially his months as a student activist and the final days of the democracy movement. Most of his friends have moved on -- some have moved abroad and some are prosperous members of the new China. It is clear, however, that the new China is as corrupt and oppressive as the world. Dai Wei is left to wonder if there is anything worthwhile left for him. This book is poetic, exciting in parts, a bit revolting (Dai Wei is hypersensitive to smells and records them in detail) and also is and feels very long. You will feel like you have truly experienced Dai Wei's Beijing coma. ( )
  theageofsilt | Mar 4, 2009 |
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For my mother
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Through the gaping hole where the covered balcony used to be, you see the bulldozed locust tree slowly begin to rise again.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374110174, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, May 2008: Like a latter-day Rip Van Winkle, a troubled young man slumbers away for ten years. While he slowly retraces the experiences that brought him into this dream state, the world around him morphs into a nearly unrecognizable place. The place is not a mountain fairyland in pre-Revolutionary America, but China at the turn of the twenty-first century. And, our story's hero is not a beleaguered farmer seeking solace among the mountains and rivers, but a promising graduate student named Dai Wei who was shot in the head during the pro-democracy protests in 1989 at Tiananmen Square. Beijing Coma is an unexpectedly visceral and daring work of fiction by critically acclaimed author Ma Jian that explores why a promising young student would risk it all in the spring of 1989. In this ingeniously constructed novel--which sets Dai Wei's internal recollections against the contemporary changes occurring beyond him--Ma Jian reveals the profound personal consequences of that historic struggle for freedom--long after the CNN cameras stopped rolling. --Lauren Nemroff

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Awakening after a decade of unconsciousness, former Tiananmen Square protester Dai Wei learns that his mother had sold one of his kidneys to finance his care, and that the China he knew has undergone radical change.

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