The Noodle Maker
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The Noodle Maker

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  396 ratings  ·  59 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...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Picador (first published 1990)
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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...more
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...more
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
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...more
"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
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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.
Nathan Glenn
The cover said "darkly humorous". I thought it was a lot more dark than humorous. Interesting though- explores the reality of life in a state that claims it is perfect but denies its people the ability mature spiritually. It shuns and denounces lasciviousness, but when there's no spiritual compass there's no way to avoid it. This is one of those books that shows you what the dark side is like. I really hope China opens soon.
On the Lonely Planet China recommended reading list

Dark, fictional depiction of socialism's impact on Chinese individuals. I liked that the characters in the many short stores made cameo appearances (or were referred to) in multiple stories. I didn't like the author's depiction of women. For example, the line that "women can summon tears as easily as piss" made me cringe.
Fascynująca książka, której autor zawarł maksimum treści w bardzo minimalnej formie. Opisy szokują wielu czytelników, ale to właśnie one pokazują zobojętnienie panujące w opisywanej totalitarnej rzeczywistości chińskiej. Moja ulubiona powieść Ma Jiana. Jestem gorącym zwolennikiem groteski, która faktycznie dominuje w opowieściach zawodowego krwiodawcy i jego przyjaciela.
an excerpt:

"For a moment, the professional writer feels like a plastic bag caught in the high wind. It occurs to him that although the plastic bag is worthless, it is able to rise above the mundane world and change directions. When the wind blows against it, it fills with air and glides through space - things the earth-bound can never do."
Francesca Gulinatti
Ottimo spaccato della realtà cinese post rivoluzione culturale e post Tiananmen. In questo libro viene descritta la confusione sociale dei cinesi durante le riforme e l'apertura di Deng Xiaopin.
E' un libro abbastanza forte e molto descrittivo, come tipico della letteratura cinese contemporanea.
I am giving this book two stars, not because it was not well written, but because I found it torturous to read. The portrayal of the characters of this costal city in China in 1992 is vivid and informative, but I found the tales excrutiating. Clever, but difficult to read about.
May 20, 2010 Rj rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rj by:
Shelves: asian, 2010
How do I sum up this book? The only thing I can think of is a Chinese version of Sienfeld. It is a book about nothing-random moments in characters' lives. It was supposed to be funny but I didn't get it. I didn't get any of it.
Nicely interleaved stories, a little philisophical, somewhat cynical and very human. The author slightly mocks critique of sexism in Kundera's the same time there are hints of an antipathy toward women in the book.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A group of stories, loosely linked because they are told by the same man to his friend who gives blood for a living. They are all very raw, reminiscent of Steinbeck with the description of bodily functions and mundane life.
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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
More about Ma Jian...
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