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586 pages, Hardcover
First published May 27, 2008
A REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT SHOULD LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE. NOTHING SHOULD FRIGHTEN IT MORE THAN SILENCE.In a little less than a week comes the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It would be an interesting calculation to add the ones who want to remember and subtract the ones who want everyone to forget and divide all that by those who think it wasn't important and multiply by those who would die for the sake of continuing the aborted effort if they were only given the chance to know about it. This isn't the only government cover up, or the only slaughter of students by their own nation, or even the only novel written about such things, but the event and this book written about it might both be the most well known of their respective infamous categories. Irony, irony. History does it best.
Mou Sen had told me that if you didn't read Kafka, you'd never grasp the underlying principles of biology.Much as I love Les Misérables, in some parts it's merely an ancestor of the theatrics masquerading as social justice movements currently running through the aisles of young adult, new adult, and various movie theaters. If you compared Beijing Coma to LM on a superficial level, you could get away with listing out pages spend on methodologies on justice, the protagonist doing their own thing in a limited away outside of the main event of students versus the state, and the wide variety of examples of the brutality, corruption, and executions that a nation was capable of inflicting on its people. However, unlike the story that birthed a musical, there is no redemption here, and even less sentimentality. This isn't the first book of Jian's I've read, and where his first work of short stories threw me off due to a combination of incomprehension and a less than lush translated writing style, here the narrative's vitality is conveyed precisely because it does nothing to rise above the petty details that compose large scale moral action committed by the public.
Just think: the literal meaning of the Chinese characters for "revolution" is "elimination of life".
He was in the library, reading up on the American Constitution.Our narrator is a prime encapsulation of a less than gripping narrative: his noble moments are more than equaled by his usual banal thoughts about women, sex, opportunistic money making schemes, and the sort of wildly outlandish dream building characteristic of college students. However, the fact that he and the rest of the characters are rather nondescript in their squabbles over power and brief moments of revolutionary action does not merit what happens to them. Crushed by tanks, rendered comatose, slaughtered regardless of whether they are a molotov-toting radicals or ten-year old children: again, this is not the first time such an incident has occurred in history, and will not be the last if those who sit in the seats of power continue on their merry way,, and I'm not referring to those in non-White People lands. Nearly six-hundred pages of writing that is necessary rather than engaging takes its toll, but I'm pleased to see the rating is at a healthy level despite this.
'It's a bit late for that now, isn't it?'
This is Tiananmen Square. There are hundreds of thousands of students and residents here, fighting for democracy. It's reckless of you to speak like this.
The heaven you yearned for is no more an epitaph carved on a gravestone.You could get angry, if you like. The situation hasn't been resolved within adequate ethical measures nearly three decades on, and reading this will do nothing but give you the intricacies if you're confident about parsing the nonfiction from the fiction (Jian was involved with the democracy movements around this time, but whether he was at Tiananmen Square at the moment of infamy is not something I'm willing to judge). However, if you bear in mind fellow unresolved issues such as repatriation of the land to the indigenous nations of the Americas, or reimbursement to descendants of slaves the world over, this one is much younger and involved far fewer lives. This isn't an attempt to smooth things over in any way, but a simple acknowledgment that the ways in which the world is fucked up are many, and getting attached to any one of them is exhausting. It's why The Hunger Games made bank and NoDAPL made squat and why being nice means shit to me. Criticize my tone when I'm deconstructing your bigoted hate, and I'll demand to know who's paying you.
In these rooms, both life and death appear sordid and banal.
Mabel said that when people march through the streets in America, no one bothers to stop and look. Perhaps living in a country like that would be even worse.
When people are naked they say very little to each other. They are striped of their identities. Usually one can guess a person's status from their hairstyle, but in the bathhouse everyone's hair is slicked back. The only props they have are the identical white flannels in their hands and their variously sized bars of soap.