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The Noodle Maker

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  784 ratings  ·  95 reviews
From the Thomas Cook prizewinner for Red Dust comes this virtuoso piece of “red humour.” Written in the aftermath of the Tiananmen massacre, it is a darkly funny novel about the absurdities and cruelties of life in modern China.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 27th 2004 by Chatto and Windus (first published 1990)
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3.41  · 
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 ·  784 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, china
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
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Stephen Durrant
Jul 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Moshe Mikanovsky
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
A courageous voice into the Chinese cultural revolution, painted with sad and miserable characters that don't know they are that way because of the brainwashing of the Party since they were born. The characters are sometimes named but more importantly defined by their occupation, their abuse, the sexist way they act towards others, and their relationship with the Party. Very powerful story telling.
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lauren by: Claire
A lot of the reviews on the cover were comparing the author to Milan Kundera. I've never read any of Kundera's works, so that description was kind of useless to me. However, after going most of the way through the book, I realized that there was one book I had read that this one reminded me of: Slaughterhouse-Five. This book has the same sort of dark humor, nihilism, quasi-fantastic moments, characters that are interesting yet not really likable, and sort of cavalier attitude toward death that a ...more
Riley Edwards
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
8 short stories, each like a fable, dark or sad, people struggle or survive or dead, with or without dignity, in a senseless world.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wins the I am uncomfortable and I am laughing and I am going to have bad dreams tonight award
May 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian, asian-author
Too deep for me, but a short book revolving around two old friends who meet weekly to share a meal and stories. One is wealthy from being a blood donor and shares his wealth in food for meals with his friend the writer. The writer tells the blood donor of his stories, written as chapters of the book. Each chapter providing a link or reference to characters in other chapters, constituting the writer's world.

Perhaps the most amusing to me is the chapter of the artist and his discussion with his 3
This book is a stunning portrayal of the way in which China was affected following the cultural revolution. It shows the lengths to which people are driven under an oppressive system, which unfortunately leads to some taboo hijinks designed to provide shock value. However, I don't care for political satire, which is all contemporary Chinese writers are able to do. I guess the Eastern canon really suffered because of Communism.

Jesus Hills
The book was okay, a little confusing at first. I didn't realize how connected each story was until i was halfway through the book. But once i realized the interconnectedness of the tales it is easier to follow. nevertheless some stories were more entertaining than others and so my interest waxed and waned throughout the course of the reading. There may have been a cultural barrier that I didn't understand. Still glad i read it but not as amazing as I was told it would be.
Dana Kraft
Meh! I'm not a big fan of dark satire and don't generally care for the kind of surreal stories in this book. That combination was extra challenging for me because I know so little about China. I did like the idea of a "street writer" in one of the stories as opposed to a professional writer. I can see that this guy is a clever writer, I just didn't enjoy these stories.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF at 56%. This book is so horribly morbid, I can't continue. 'Beijing Coma' was so much better!
Tracy Murphy
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just wow.
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
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What a creative way to tell these short stories, in the context of modern Chinese history. (I do not believe that the backdrop of Ancient Chinese History, which was 311, while Modern was 301 for whatever reason, was of much use.) Now that I am actually clearly thinking about it, I recall absolutely ADORING what Ma Jian did here.

You might be warned there are a few awfully unfortunate happenstances detailed within these pages, but if those can't faze you, I particularly enjoyed Ma Jian's The Noodl
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nicole M.
What: Set in China, The Noodle Maker is a sort of mosaic story made of many little stories, that all end up tying together to the professional writer and the professional blood donor eating their dinner together in the writer's apartment. They aren't stories of very average citizens, though, and it makes a strange sort of cat's cradle as it goes.

So?: This is eerie. Indeed, it's a sort of satire, but that doesn't negate that it's downright creepy. Its many twisted characters end up weaving a mess
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Ma Jian was born in Qingdao,China on the 18th of August 1953. 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 Drew.

Ma came to the attention of the English-speaking world with his story
“Când nu mai avem puterea să ne luptăm cu lumea asta sălbatică, ne întoarcem în noi și începem să ne facem rău nouă înșine...” 0 likes
“Ce ciudate mai sunt și relațiile dintre oameni. Ne purtăm frumos, ba chiar exagerat de frumos, cu acei oameni de care ne e teamă, în schimb cu cei timizi și retrași ne purtăm ca niște despoți. (...) Cu toții avem o natură dublă.” 0 likes
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