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Beijing Coma

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3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,402 ratings  ·  203 reviews
Dai Wei has been unconscious for almost a decade. A medical student and a pro-democracy protestor 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 ...more
Hardcover, 586 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  1,402 ratings  ·  203 reviews


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Aubrey
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 t
...more
Joshua Spenser
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Tammy
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sunny
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book told from the stundent's point of view of the tianenmen square massacre. It's told retrospectively from a comatose students point of view and slips between his life and mind in the coma and his fatelful tale of those last few weeks before the massacre took place. It gets a little boring in the middle i should say but is stunning in the last 200 pages. Ma Jian has a interesting way of describing things in a very minimilistic way but in a way that enables you to picture the whole scene. Wor ...more
Yigal Zur
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
i loved Ma Jain before this novel. but this one sorry to say i could not finish. with all my knowledge of China, with my curiosity towards what happened in tian an man in june 1989 and i was there few days after i got lost. Ma is a great writer, good critic of the wrongs in china but i found this novel to cumbersome.
Sotiris Karaiskos
A staggering book about the Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing in 1989. The author begins - through the story of our hero - with the way these students grew up who gave birth to their desire to claim something different from what was given to their parents, continuing with the situation in the universities and ending in the uprising and its bloody repression, creates a complete chronicle of this process, describing in detail each stage, putting us in the heart of events, transporting us next t ...more
Claire
Jul 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
truly, this will induce coma, in beijing or anywhere else. i couldn't get through more than 35 pages.

one problem among others: there are no chapters. or sections. or breaks in the text at all. only a single, 586-page stream of multi-tensed consciousness. this book requires a reader with an unheard-of attention span. also, a reader with some knowledge of the history of the cultural revolution. which i do have, and still i was bored. references to the democracy wall movement do little to inspire
...more
Leon
Jun 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Stephen Douglas Rowland
An absolutely towering masterpiece -- painful, haunting, compelling, and profound. Original and never once dull over the course of 700 pages. I wish I could write some words that would do a work like this justice, that would make more people read it and experience it, but I finished the book about 10 minutes ago and my mind is still reeling. Don't allow the length and the grim subject matter to frighten you away. This is simply one of the best novels I've ever read.
Meredith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joey
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Victoria
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
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
Sarah
Oct 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nancy
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ricki
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Edward
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Raully
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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.
JimZ
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this in August.. I made a note after finishing it (and it took some time to finish it): Hard to describe. Too long but shows immaturity of the students. I worry about the Hong Kong protestors of August 2019. Today, 12.31.2019: I think I am less worried about the Hong Kong protestors as of today. They have many other people from different walks of life in Hong Kong on their side.
Matt
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
A few months back, one of my students (a 19-or-so-year-old from China) happened to mention the Tiananmen Square massacre in the course of a discussion (hardly normal ESL classroom fare, but hell, I'm always willing to run with more interesting topics when they come up) as something he'd never heard of before coming to study abroad. What immediately struck me was that he--and many of my other students--was of course right around the age that many of the protesters would have been, given that such ...more
Joan
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Xian Xian
My Opinion of this changed over the two years and why do I have two reviews of the same book? Now I have to delete the other one. Darn GR.

Old Opinion from 2013: 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
...more
Mary
Dec 08, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jo
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, china
I don't know how to review this book really. To say is was good or not good doesn't seem relevant. It was a story I was ready to engage with and Ma Jian offered a powerful means of doing so. The narrative covered the events of the 1989 protests and June 4 massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It was told through the voice of a young man who was involved from the beginning, and who was shot in the head on June 4, remaining in a coma for more than ten years. Through his memories, we hear the st ...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
Shweta Ganesh Kumar
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Thurston Hunger
Mar 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Ronald Morton
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Beijing Coma is a well-crafted view into both modern day China, as well as China in the 1980’s in the years leading up the June 4th massacre.

At first I found the more modern sections to be a bit throw away, only really adding a backdrop for the narrator’s recollections. But, as the book progressed, and the recollections begin to lose themselves in nuanced details of the student movements of the 80’s, the more modern section begin to emerge as the more scathing indictment of China, especially as
...more
Chris
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
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
J.S. Dunn
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A masterwork. 4.5
For a Westerner, the story of how the Tiananmen demonstrations and tragedy unfolded is told in too much detail. [ Note from other readers here, how many gave up on it. ] But please readjust perspective: this novel of what happened was not written for a lightweight, TV and video brained audience in the West. This not entertainment.

It is intended as an extended metaphor of past and present, and the detail works if one accepts that.
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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
...more

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