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Beijing Coma

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  994 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews

Dai Wei has been unconscious for almost a decade. A medical student and a pro-democracy protester in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, he was struck by a soldier’s bullet and fell into a deep coma. As soon as the hospital authorities discovered that he had been an activist, his mother was forced to take him home. She allowed pharmacists access to his body and sold his urine a

Hardcover, 586 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joshua Spenser
Oct 03, 2013 Joshua Spenser rated it it was ok
Let me just say, this book was tough to finish. I considered stopping a few times (which I rarely do as I don't like leaving books unfinished). First off, this book was in good need for editing. It was a few hundred pages too long. I appreciate the fact that Ma Jian wanted to give a detailed history of the events, but the details just got repetitive and the suspense he tried to build fell flat. Most annoying were the constant power struggles between students. Saddly those characters exist in the ...more
May 30, 2016 Sunny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book told from the stundent's point of view of the tianenmen square massacre. It's told retrospectively from a comatose students point of view and slips between his life and mind in the coma and his fatelful tale of those last few weeks before the massacre took place. It gets a little boring in the middle i should say but is stunning in the last 200 pages. Ma Jian has a interesting way of describing things in a very minimilistic way but in a way that enables you to picture the whole scene. Wor ...more
Apr 16, 2008 Tammy rated it it was amazing
Ma Jian's epic masterpiece about the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests will be present in your mind long after you put the book down-- if you can do so. Dai Wei, a PhD student at Beijing University was struck by a bullet during the massacre that followed the student protests. As he lies in bed immobile for years, he lives in his memories of the past. He also silently observes everything around his big iron bed, trapped within his body. His mother, apartment, friends, and body break down around him ...more
Feb 03, 2016 Megan rated it it was amazing
Epic masterpiece
Jun 08, 2009 Leon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leon by: Kinokuniya, Starmag
From the first page on, life literally flashes by the protagonist. He is told: ‘This is a clear sign that now on you’re going to have to take life seriously.’

Dai Wei, a Beijing University student, has been shot in the head in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The story proper begins as the narrator switches to Dai Wei, now in a coma.

We journey with Wei, from his birth, childhood and adulthood, to finality. We see him falling for his childhood love Lulu, who later betrays him; a Hongkongese A-
BEIJING Coma opens with its narrator waking from a long, deep sleep, as the apartment building around him is torn down to make way for an Olympic stadium.
To be more precise, Dai Wei has been lying in a coma for ten years, having been shot in the head during the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989, in which hundreds of protesters, many university students, were killed by government troops.
He is paralysed from head to toe, but is still able to hear, think and remember: “A portion of your bra
Xian Xian
My Opinion of this changed over the two years and why do I have two reviews of the same book? Now I have to delete the other one. Darn GR.

Old Opinion from 2013: Ma Jian's Beijing Coma is probably one of the best novels I have read this year. It is so beautifully written, and haunting. My eyes were opened and I have learned so much about the Tiananmen Square Massacre and Protests through this book and I have also done my own research. I knew about the Tiananmen Square protests before I read the
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2008 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Ma Jian spent more than a decade writing this story of the events of Tiananmen Square prompted by his desire to force China to remember the tragic events of its past. He said of the novel: 'I wanted to write a book that would bear witness to recent history and help reclaim a people's right to remember.'

As someone who was in Tinanmen Square during the weeks leading up to the tragedy, Ma Jian is perfectly placed to reflect on his country's history. However, it is the way he frames his story that m
Jan 26, 2013 Joey rated it it was amazing
It is so hard to properly review a book like this that is brilliant, descriptive and eye opening and at the same time chronicles atrocities too shocking to fully comprehend.
This is the story of the massacre of student protesters at Tiananmen Square. It is also the story of their fathers and grandfathers and the torture and injustice they suffered during Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution.

The narrator lies in a coma after taking a bullet to the head while fleeing from the crackdown on student act
So, I didn't like Beijing Coma much at all. Part of the reason, I'm sure, was the translation. I've no idea how faithful it was to Ma Jian's style, or tone, or anything, but it often read like something that had been only partially translated into idiomatic English. There was a strange mix of English-language slang, and often I think a phrase closer to the original Chinese idiom would have been a better choice. But then there are other times where things that I suspect were puns popped up, and t ...more
Apr 16, 2010 Mary rated it liked it
Overall I liked this, and found it particularly exciting at the end. The book would have been a lot better if it had been about 200 pages shorter.
Initially I was much more taken by the background story – what had happened to the family, especially the father, in the past. As this rolled into Tiananmen Square, things in the background slowed way down, and I found myself fascinated by the coma story, especially the incredible sensitivity to sounds and smells.
There seemed to be a substantial para
Thurston Hunger
Mar 06, 2011 Thurston Hunger rated it liked it
Overly long and overly ambitious take on China, through the bloody
lens of the Tianamenen Square 1989 events. While that is the focal
point, the story spans long before and long after. Working in the
history of brutality of the Cultural Revolution, set the table for the
outrage at the events of 1989, but the chaos and in-bred ennui
of the "leaders" made for a jarring juxtaposition.

Less successful a juxtaposition, the text switching senteces of poetic
ramblings from some alleged ancient manuscript an
Oct 27, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
Although intense, this book was beautifully written and served as a true eye-opener. Our comatose narrator, Dai Wei, takes us through his father's plight during the Cultural Revolution, and then his own involvement with the student-led, pro-democracy protests ending tragically at Tiananmen Square in 1989. We see in graphic, gruesome detail a group of students evolve from self-centered, pretentious teens and early twenty somethings, into young adults giving their lives for freedom in China.

Sep 11, 2008 Jorge rated it it was amazing
Amazing account of China from the start of the Mao era, Mao's initiatives to detailed notes on the events of Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the decade after the massacre. Truly captures the challenges of achieving democratic rights under a strong central government. The book is a fictional account of Dai Wei yet it captures the sentiment and many of the events of the 1989 massacre. The sad part for me is how many outside of China never received details of the incidents and possibly forgot ...more
Chris Stalnaker
Feb 08, 2015 Chris Stalnaker rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Wow. I finally finished it. This book was long, but very interesting. The history of China covered spans from the cultural revolution, through tiananmen square and up to the preparations for the beijing olympics. I learned so much and felt like I had finally had my eyes opened to the atrocities the chinese people have endured. I think the book could have been more heavily edited with respect to the details of the hunger strike. The book was dense, but I'm glad I finished it (even though our book ...more
Lauran Lansdon
With China constantly in the news for months leading up to the Olympics (Tibet, earthquake, Olympic preparations, etc) I couldn't help but notice this book and realize how little I actually knew about China. Perhaps it was the authors intent to publish it at this time?

The main character of "Beijing Coma", Dai Wei, has been in a coma for 10 years (1989 to 1999). The coma is a result of being shot in the head on June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square. Although no one knows it, his mind is still active a
Scott Cox
What an amazing novel! Words to describe this novel vary from horrific, stunning, sorrowful to well-crafted, engrossing. Any pretense to Communist China's government being in any way humanitarian are readily and soundly destroyed by Ma Jian. We read of government-sponsored terrorism beginning with the millions killed during Mao's cultural revolution to the myriads annihilated at the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. The story is told through the mind of Dai Wei, a student democracy protest lead ...more
Marco Sotgiu
“Non mettere in pericolo le nostre vite” disse Bai Ling. “Voi pensate di diventare martiri gloriosi se la polizia vi uccide, ma la vostra morte non cambierebbe niente”.
Vent’anni dopo la strage di piazza Tian’anmen quei ragazzi che pensavano di diventare “martiri gloriosi”, uccisi dall’esercito e non dalla polizia, non hanno cambiato proprio niente. La loro morte, oggi lo possiamo dire, è stata inutile, anzi ha distrutto l’ala riformista del partito comunista e ha precipitato la Cina nel vortice
Jun 16, 2009 Ricki rated it it was amazing
absolutely brilliant - it was one to be savoured -not read quickly - as part of the interest of the book is the slow build up to 4 June '89 - the positioning for power within the students in the movement and the recollections of people, places and times through the fog of the coma. I loved every minute of this book but will also admit to putting it down several times whilst I digested what I had read. All in all, it took me about 3 weeks to read it.........don't miss it.
May 07, 2009 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Excellent fictionalisation of the tiananmen square incident in 1989. surprisingly un-romantic and it does a half decent job of showing that the demonstrations were a bit of a mess really but were a massive release of pent up emotion and hurting of a society. a refreshingly different style of book too with no chapters as such but lots of different length sections. much more like life. A really good read and so much more grown up than red dust.
Nov 07, 2009 ladahiae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Es gibt Bücher, die ich mochte; Peking-Koma ist eines von ihnen. Es gibt Bücher, die wegen der stilistischen Schönheit, den Protagonisten, der Geschichte, ihrer Wichtigkeit oder auch wegen ihrer Kurzweiligkeit liebte; das ist eines von ihnen. Es gibt wenige Bücher, die mich berührten; das ist eines von ihnen. Es gibt Bücher, die mich veränderten, aber keines so wie dieses.

Must-Read! Ein absolutes Must-Read auf so vielen Ebenen...
Jan 25, 2016 Prctaxman rated it it was amazing
I've just started this book. I know, I know - all my books on the shelf are listed as books I read - actually they are books I've read or reading since the start of 2008. Anyhow, I could not get into the author's Red Dust. I am getting into this.

Yet, living in China, perhaps prudence dictates that the less I say, the better. So I will say this: I recommend this book!

I completed this book on Xmas Day, 2008. This was one of those books that were quite difficult to read. The difficulty mainly was m
Jan 31, 2015 Vanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: Čína
Další skutečně zvláštní, těžko uchopitelný, fascinující a děsivý zážitek s dílem z pera čínského autora v exilu Ma Ťiena. Hlavní hrdina jeho románu “Beijing Coma” Taj Wej schytal během masakru na náměstí Nebeského klidu kulku do hlavy. Zranění přežil, ale zůstává v kómatu a nikdo neví, jestli okolní svět vnímá nebo ne. Uvězněný ve svém těle, Taj Wej nám zprostředkovává svou minulost – dospívání v post-maoistické Číně, studentská léta a konečně protesty v Pekingu na jaře 1989, a v druhé linii i s ...more
Oct 29, 2008 Raully rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Dai Wei lies in a coma after the student protests of 1989 have been brutally shut down. The narrative combines what he observes now with his memories of his former life, allowing us to contrast the romantic dreams of his youthful friends with the compromised actualities of modern-day China. Highly recommended.
Jul 23, 2008 Edward rated it it was amazing
WOW! Highly recommended by MICHIKO KAKUTANI from NY Times Book Review. Totally engaging, difficult to put down. A bit lengthy-- close to 600 pages with no chapter breaks but worth every smidgen. Just in time for the Olympics-- be informed. A lot of weighty stuff exposed accompanied by prolific prose.
Gill Schell
I found this book really moving, powerful and informative. We knew so little of what was going on at the time. Yes, it's too long and there are boring moments (especially in the middle), but it's worth perservering. I found the author's technique of moving from past to present gripping and often heartbreaking, though funny at times. The details of long build-up to the massacre, the in-fighting, the atmosphere in the Square ten years previously, are described by Dai Wei as he lies in a coma. The ...more
Nov 10, 2015 Blaine rated it really liked it
1989 Tiananmen Square some ways this event seems so long ago and yet the repercussions are still being felt in China.The author captures how this event affected his protagonist who was shot in the head and is now in a coma. The university student is laying in bed and we follow him through his life.

The book is well written but be fore-warned it is long and detailed. There were times that I was feeling a bit over-whelmed by the detail and being submerged into Dai Wei's life. However,
DNF - It isn't that it is bad, or even uninteresting, but it is a bit boring and I don't see how it can really be worth 600 pages of the same old thing. Students making petitions, arguing with each other, thing on marches etc it feels repetitive. There are so many names that I have lost track.

It would have been better had Jian decided to write a non fiction account of the Tiananmen protests. Fiction requires some kind of drama or something to move the story, and in this it felt like it remained
Jun 21, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
A few months back, one of my students (a 19-or-so-year-old from China) happened to mention the Tiananmen Square massacre in the course of a discussion (hardly normal ESL classroom fare, but hell, I'm always willing to run with more interesting topics when they come up) as something he'd never heard of before coming to study abroad. What immediately struck me was that he--and many of my other students--was of course right around the age that many of the protesters would have been, given that such ...more
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Ma Jian was born in Qingdao,China on the 18th of August 1953, not much is known or revealed about his early and formative years.

But in 1986, Ma moved to Hong Kong after a clampdown by the Chinese government in which most of his works were banned.

He moved again in 1997 to Germany, but only stayed for two years; moving to England in 1999 - where he now lives with his partner and translator Flora Dre
More about Ma Jian...

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“Before the sparrow arrived, you had almost stopped thinking about flight. Then, last winter, it soared through the sky and landed in front of you, or more precisely on the windowsill of the covered balcony adjoining your bedroom. You knew the grimy window panes were caked with dead ants and dust, and smelt as sour as the curtains. But the sparrow wasn’t put off. It jumped inside the covered balcony and ruffled its feathers, releasing a sweet smell of tree bark into the air. Then it flew into your bedroom, landed on your chest and stayed there like a cold egg.” 3 likes
“My mind flashed back to the Cultural Revolution, when a group of Red Guards pulled our neighbor, Granny Li, out of the opera company’s dormitory block and ordered the rest of us to bring out our thermos flasks. We then had to stand and watch as the Red Guards poured ten flasks of boiling water over Granny Li’s head.” 1 likes
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