Beijing Coma
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Beijing Coma

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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  707 ratings  ·  133 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

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

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Leon
Jun 08, 2009 Leon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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-...more
Tammy
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
Gerund
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...more
Meredith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Victoria
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...more
Joey
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...more
Madeline
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
Mary
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...more
Thurston Hunger
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...more
Joshua Spenser
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
Sarah
Oct 27, 2009 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.

Throu...more
Jorge
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
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
Ricki
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.
Nancy
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.
ladahiae
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...
Raully
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.
Edward
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.
Maggie
This is a great book. And I don't say that solely because I liked it. I mean Great Book. As in Great books of the 21-first century. This is like fiction as historical documentary.
It's a novel about twentith century Political history -the reality of Communism in China as it was since the
"Liberation"-The Revolution which resulted in the ascendency of Chairman Mao. It touches on the Cultural Revolution which was an era of horrific sadism. But the main story is about the Massacre of Tiananmen Sq...more
Frannie
I agree with those who say this could have been edited. But not too much. The relationships between the characters reveal a great deal about group think and in-group power struggles characteristic of most political movements. Overall, this novel offers insight into the lead-up to the Tiananmen Square Protests and Massacre. And also into the tension between economic and political reform (and how the former won over the latter). Even the Falon Gong crackdown of 1999 plays a role. And the pre-2008...more
Stephen
The narrator of Ma Jian's long novel (703pp) is a comatose young man who was shot in the head near Tiananmen on the fateful day of June 4, 1989. He cannot move, but he is conscious of what is happening around him, and, more importantly, he can remember. Thus, the narrative moves back and forth between the narrator's memories of the events leading up to the Tiananmen massacre in which he was so gravely wounded and his perceptions of the "tiny" events transpiring in the apartment where his lonely,...more
Cheryl
The novel has a good light prose style which which served as a counterpoint to the gruesome events which happened during the Cultural Revolution. Dai Wei seemed to finally understand his father and what he suffered after he read his diary. Maybe he was hoping to live up to him by getting involved in the student protests - he certainly didn't take up any leadership roles so one wonders if he was a reluctant participant.

The novel is woven with poetry and little character observations which make it...more
Lixian
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 book but I learned so much more by reading or seeing through the comatose protagonist who survived the tragedy. I felt like I was in the same shoes as Dai Wei, se...more
Franziska
Was geschah im Juni 1989 in Peking auf dem Platz des himmlischen Friedens? Wie kam es zur Bildung der Studentenbewegung und was waren ihre Ziele? Diesen Fragen widmet sich das Buch, in Form eines Romans.
Beschrieben wird das Geschehen aus Sicht von Dai Wei. Er liegt seit Jahren im Koma, nachdem er bei den Kämpfen zur Niederschlagung der Studentenbewegung im Juni 1989 angeschossen wurde. Nun erinnert er sich an seine Kindheit, vor allem an seinen Vater, der als Rechtsabweichler gebrandmarkt wurde...more
Joan
This book took me a long time to read though not through lack of interest. It is a dense detailed account of the events leading up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 told from the point of view of Dai Wei who is in a coma throughout after being shot that night.

Whilst I have some minor criticisms of the telling of the tale I am glad I perserved through what I perceived slightly dull bits as it truely is an amazing novel and an achievement by Ma Jian of attempting to tell the truth.

My majo...more
Cmorice
Ma Jian a quitté Beijing pour Hong Kong en 1987, peu avant que ses livres soient interdits en Chine, et vit aujourd’hui à Londres. Il a publié quatre livres en France, dont Nouilles chinoises (Flammarion, 2006) et Chemins de poussière rouge (Éditions de l’Aube, 2005).

« Tout était vert : les soldats, les tanks derrière eux, les immeubles des deux côtés. Le ciel était vert, et le soleil encore plus vert… Puis je la vis : c’était A-Mei, vêtue d’une longue robe blanche, ses cheveux fraîchement lavés...more
Diane
A long and difficult book. The story is told by a young man in a coma from being shot in the head during the June 4, 1989 Tianamen square student demonstrations and goes back and forth between his life as a "vegetable," his earlier life, and the Tianamen Square student demonstrations from April 17 to June 4. The student demonstrations are told in minute detail from the point of view of the organizers.

I slowly became aware of several things. (1)At first I was amazed at the petty bickering among...more
Golden
Eh.

premise
Dai Wei is in a coma after being shot in the head at the Tianamen square massacre. His senses of hearing & smell are in tact. He drifts between memory of events leading up to the massacre and his present situation, lying almost senseless in a grimy, cluttered apartment being looked after by his struggling mother who is completley unaware that her son is not completely unaware.

The author uses switches in memory / reality rather than chapters, I think, to heighten the idea of the mai...more
Shweta Ganesh Kumar
Beijing Coma is haunting and disturbing.
It is unforgettable and despite the tedious attention to detail in parts, is a book, I would recommend that everyone read.

Beijing Coma follows the story of Dai Wei, a student leader who falls into a coma after being shot during the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.
From inside his involuntarily immobile flesh, Dai Wei remembers his life mostly as a PHD student at Beijing University and his role in the events that lead to the massacre. His mind also meande...more
Ellen
This is a rare historical novel in which the writing (translated from Mandarin into English) isn't just language competently handled to tell a story, but is interesting, layered and inventive in its own right. I'm a writer so I relish that. Sometimes a story is great but the writing is just okay. I could name some best sellers like this. Sometimes the story is okay but the writing is acrobatic and self-conscious. What about the story? Best of all is when a writer with a rebellious mind has a sto...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
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“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
“Before the counter-culture revolutionary Li Lian was executed in 1971 for criticising the Cultural Revolution, pour policemen pushed her face against the window of a truck, lifted her shirt and cut out her kidneys with a surgical knife,’ Mau Sen said, his face stony and white. ‘I think that removing the organs of convicts while they are still alive is too much. It completely contravenes medical ethics.’ ‘This is a dissection class, not a political meeting,’ Sun Chunlin said.” 1 likes
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