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The Noodle Maker

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  485 ratings  ·  69 reviews
From Mi Jian, the highly acclaimed Chinese dissident, comes a satirical novel about the absurdities of life in a post-Tiananmen China.

Two men meet for dinner each week. Over the course of one of these drunken evenings, the writer recounts the stories he would write, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln and opens a private crematorium, delighting in his ability
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Picador (first published 1990)
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28th out of 145 books — 71 voters
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131st out of 416 books — 327 voters

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Community Reviews

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Ma Jian is a Chinese writer and a dissident. He was born in 1953, so he is part of the generation of Chinese who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution as children and young adults, as well as seeing the implementation -- and the limitations -- of Deng Xiaoping's Open Door economic policy. Ma has not been a silent observer of the myriad ways in which the Chinese government has cracked down on freedom of expression in Chinese society; he has been a member of the dissident community of Chinese ar ...more
The Noodle Maker deserves way better than its current 3.33 rating (will or will not grow over time?).
It consists of several loosely interconnected short stories, sometimes with a touch of surreal, often with a delicious dark humor, and mostly absurd.

A satire of the Chinese society influenced by the Open Door Policy (instituted by Deng Xiaoping in 1978), this collection has an interesting array of characters: the failed writer who dreams of his big novel, but instead writes political-oriented ar
Let it be known that I did not read this under the best circumstances: short works give me trouble, short stories even more so, and what with the last few days consisting of the overbearing War and Peace competing with my current under the weather state, I in no way gave this introduction to a brand new author the attention it deserved. Ema and Kris do a far better job, and I am planning on coming back to Ma with Beijing Coma. But enough excuses.

Despite all that, I know dark satire when I see it
Stephen Durrant
A scathing and sometimes funny portrayal of the period just after Deng Xiaoping's proclamation of the Open Door Policy and encouragement of capitalist initiatives. Suddenly every kind of small enterprise popped up, and ideals, whether traditional or Maoist, evaporated. Ma Jian satirizes this period with such characters as a professional blood donor, a young man who buys a pottery kiln and uses it for his own small cremation business, a woman who sacrifices herself on stage to a tiger as a piece ...more
За Китай може да се напишат хиляди страници със статистики и примери, но нито една страница няма да притежава силата на разказите от Ма Дзиен, от които може да получиш творческа клаустрофобия и да разбереш защо творците се задушават в подобни тоталитарни системи (или както по-точно може да се опише: авторитарен режим с капиталистическа икономика).

В един от разказите Ма Дзиен е описал тази система като ябълка. Писателят-червей яде по инерция от тази ябълка, оставяйки тъмно-кафяви тунели от изпраж
"The Noodle Maker", for me, oscillates between two and three stars. The skill is undeniable--the occasionally lovely passage and, more importantly, full characters and a coherent, if shattering, vision. This is the post-Maoist, crony capitalism of the current People's Republic, and Ma Jian's dissection of it is withering. Two friends meet for dinner--a writer and a man who runs a blood-donation ring that supplies what the wealthy ill seek. Most of the novel is made up of stories that the writer ...more
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
"The Noodle Maker" by Ma Jian
The Noodle Maker by Ma Jian (1991, trans. from Chinese 2004 by Flora Drew) is the 3rd work I have read for Jeannie's Chinese Challenge. The Challenges runs from Sept 1, 2009 to Sept 1, 2010. I have posted prior to this on The Uninvited and Miss Chopsticks.

The Noodle Maker is set China, in the 1980s. It begins with two old friendly enemies having dinner together as they often do. One is a writer of articles for the government about heroic
Vítejte v překrásné nové Číně! Máme tu herečku, která si plánuje krvavou sebevraždu na jevišti, podnikatele, který provozuje starou keramickou pec jako krematorium a řadu dalších postav, které, z nedostatku možností se realizovat jinak, hledají smysl života v leckdy pokřivené lásce. Postavy, s nimiž nás autor seznamuje, jsou všechny do jisté míry vyšinuté: svými nepřiměřenými životními postoji jako by reagovaly na nepřiměřené podmínky, v nichž žijí. Kapitoly tohoto absurdního románu fungují jako ...more
Apr 23, 2013 Bjorn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: china
The Noodle Maker (2004) is set during the early 90s, in a China supposedly transformed by Deng's reform politics; everything is for sale now, you can go to McDonald's, you can start your own business feeding, clothing or burying your fellow comrades, women are learning to wear western makeup and men to expect them to. Of course, deep down, not much has changed; communism falling in Albania and Romania and the Tiananmen square massacre pretty much go unreported in favour of renewed efforts by the ...more
I am not sure what it is with this book. I've had it in my shelf for at least some 10 years, and yet I only read it now. I remember starting it a bit after buying it, but for some reason never got too far. Even though the book is really short, too. I have no idea why. It is not like me to start a book and then not finish it. Even when I don't like the book. And this one wasn't even bad. But now I did finish it, and I'm not sure I am too glad about it.

Now, the reason for my mixed feelings is tha
Riley Edwards
Absurd and engaging, this is an odd little book but an interesting one. I take it the writer is not well received by the Chinese administration and I can see why - it is deeply, satirically, critical about about the way the country is run. While its focus of subversion may be firmly set upon China, in many ways it is universal in its analysis of humanity. Well worth a read.
Two friends have dinner together regularly. They've been friends since they met in the re-education camp when they were in their teens, and these dinners have a sort of ritual to them: one always gripes about something, the other listens, they both eat, they both drink, and their conversation turns to comparing their lives and the contributions they've made to society.

The writer was chosen when he was young. He's lived the Party life with a salary and an apartment. He has spent his life writing
Haunting and disturbing, but truly one that you must read. Like it should be magical realism, but this is not magic..just life. Definitely want to read more by Ma Jian
Wins the I am uncomfortable and I am laughing and I am going to have bad dreams tonight award
Rajiv Chopra
This book is set somewhere in the times that China was coming out of the Mao era, and details the changes in society taking place at that time, through a series of stories of the people at the time.
The stories seem to take place in the background of dinner conversations between two friends, the writer and the blood donor.
The stories are dark, quirky and somewhat eccentric. I would not say that they are terribly clear or interesting or amusing, however. A bit obtuse, and could have been much bet
I'm not sure whether to give this four or five stars. It's not a 'feel good' book, though there is a strong satirical humour woven throughout. Parts of it felt so deeply dark that I couldn't read more than a chapter in a sitting, but needed a break to digest all the feelings and questions it evoked! But that appeals to me! The book certainly brings you face to face with a raw kind of humanity, a damaged, deranged humanity struggling with the meaning of life and death. In so doing it exposes some ...more
Aug 21, 2014 Henry rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: china
"The Absurd is more real than life itself."

This sentence is scribbled down on a newspaper by one of the many characters in this book. And Ma Jian apparently tried to provide a "real" picture of the Chinese society in the early 1990s by writing a set of interconnected absurd stories. But it does not come together. All the three legged dogs, voluntarily cremated and tiger suicides rather provide an insight into Ma Jian's mind than into Chinese society.

If you want to read this, because you have an
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
This is a wonderfully dark book, totally different in tone from every other work of fiction I've read from a Chinese author - probably because he's writing from London and not within the realm of the censors. His work was banned in China in 1987, and since then he has lived in Hong Kong, Germany, and now resides in England, where he continues to publish. I bought this book at a local Western bookstore here in Chengdu, so I can only assume it has survived the censors by virtue of being an English ...more
Although this book gives you several glances of the "less pretty" side of the Chinese culture, I must say that I found it dull, boring and awfully pornographic.
The book's main story is one of two guys who meet once in a week to share meat and mead, using this opportunity to discuss a couple of aspects of the world around them. One of the guys is a blood donor by profession, the other is a writer who has absolutely no brilliant ideas for his book about the government. Apparently what give the boo
This was recommended to me by Rudina as my first post-grad school reading, and I'm glad she did. It is prickly and dark, and takes an absurdist yet clear-sighted look into China as it began to open up at the end of the 1970's to capitialism and the West. The stories are bleak and painful, as strange mutations of the entreprenurial spirit take root amongst those who had been so long pressed down and paralyzed by the crushing weight of the modern Chinese government. The insights into the human str ...more
Diane Cameron
This is an odd book and I confess that I never finished it. This is fairly unusual for me, especially as it wasn't a very long book, but it just left me cold.

The prose is extremely well-written, and clever. It's an examination of the human condition through several rather strange characters in China and it glows with erudition and wisdom. And yet, it was so cold and dissecting of humanity that it was like watching a surgeon slice into someone you know and list their body parts.

I really thought i
It's taken me months to finish this slim book that I grabbed off the shelf thinking I would read in one overnight at work.

Ma Jian is a really interesting contemporary Chinese author, but I think I'd have an easier time reading his books if I could put the explicit violence into the context of the cultural metaphors it represents. His writing/the translation is extremely compelling and clear despite some of the subject matter.
Kremena Yordanova
Ще използвам сравнение от книгата, за да опиша най-ясно чувството, което преобладаваше, докато я четях - все едно някой натиква памук в гърлото ми, бавно и методично.
Болезнено и задушаващо четиво за отсъствието на човешкото в един пост-Мао Китай. Препоръчвам.
I was totally surprised by Ma Jian's writing. This book is unsettling, and it's a good thing.

It shakes you out of your daily routine, away from pink flowers and teddy bears to throw you into a reality we too often forget.

The Noodle Maker captivated me from the beginning to the end, though its reading was somehow difficult because it made me face things I didn't know, and things I'd rather not have come to know.

I was glad I didn't stop reading it after the first pages, I forced myself to go on
Laroy Viviane
Tableau acide d'une Chine contemporaine composé d'histoires autour de personnages marginaux. Ceux-ci témoignent des contradictions d'une société très (trop) structurée. Comme pour l'histoire de cette jeune fille violée par plusieurs jeunes hommes dont son petit ami, entourée d'une foule spectatrice et d'un policier qui refuse de l'aider : la violence est le symptome d'une société rigide à l'extrême qui ne peut faire qu'engendrer perversions et frustrations. Permet de méditer sur le rôle d'un éta ...more
It took a lot of deliberation for me to finally decide that I like this book. And maybe I don't like it so much as respect it deeply. It was mostly not fun to read, and the militant teenage feminist in me still has a hard time with works where it's hard to tell if a writer's misogyny is ironic or not. This author calls out some pretty detailed and difficult-to-stomach truths about what totalatarianism does to people, and I think that's important stuff for westerners, particularly Americans, to f ...more
One of the most obscure books I've ever read. I have never met another who has read or even heard of this book. A friend of mine brought it back from China thinking it was non-fiction and i read it on an airplane. A quick read, this book is comprised of many short stories that are somehow linked together. The stories are bizarre, disturbing, and compelling. I would recommend this book to anyone and hope to talk to them about what they think- i've been dying for someone else to read it.
I am currently fascinated by all things Chinese. I am particularly interested in books and writers that have been banned in China. This book is really short stories that are woven together by common threads. Ma Jian touches on some interesting ideas, like a young man who buys a used kiln and opens up a crematorium with his mother. There is also an actress who performs a play which is really her own suicide while her boyfriend watches. I like it because it is unpredictable and very Chinese.
Eric Stone
Another truly fantastic book my Ma Jian. It's short stories, but somewhat related to each other in a way that gives the whole collection a bigger impact than any one of the stories has by itself. Full of the contradictions and cultural confusions that are China today. Almost like science fiction in the sense of how alien the world described is, but at the same time you can relate to it. A great book from one of my favorite writers.
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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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