Beijing Coma

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Beijing Coma
Author Ma Jian
Country USA
Language Chinese
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published in English
May 27, 2008
Media type Print
Pages 592 ppg
ISBN ISBN 0374110174

Beijing Coma is a 2008 novel by Ma Jian. It is translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew.[1] The Chinese government has banned the book.[2] Ma has stated that he wrote the book "to reclaim history from a totalitarian government whose role is to erase it" and named the novel Beijing Coma in reference to this.[3][4] Beijing Coma was nominated in 2009 for the Man Booker Prize and is one of the New York Times "100 Notable Books of 2008".[5][6]


The book follows the character of Dai Wei, a man who awakens from a coma to discover that ten years have passed since he was shot in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. The book's narrative switches between Dai Wei's time as a seemingly non-responsive coma patient to his life before his shooting.


Critical reception for the book was positive,[7][8][9] with Tash Aw calling it "a landmark".[10] Pankaj Mishra compared Beijing Coma with the work of writers such as Milan Kundera, Josef Škvorecký and Ivan Klíma.[1] Michiko Kakutani praised the novel's translation while stating that the book "is desperately in need of editing".[11]


In April 2012 Ma protested the choice of China as the guest of honor at the London Book Fair.[12] Ma used red paint to smear a cross over his face and attempted to present a copy of Beijing Coma to Liu Binjie, but was stopped by security. Ma called his Chinese publisher a "mouthpiece of the Chinese communist party" and claimed that he had been manhandled while trying to give Liu his book.[13]


  1. ^ a b Mishra, Pankaj (30 June 2008). "Tiananmen's Wake: A novel of hope and cynicism". The New Yorker (Condé Nast Publications). Retrieved 30 June 2008. 
  2. ^ Smallwood, Christine (May 25, 2008). "Cage of bones". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Stone, Beth. "Beijing Coma". Socialist Review. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "Tiananmen remembered". BBC News. 4 June 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "German Book Fair Head Defends Choice Of China". CBS News. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "100 notable books of 2008". New York Times. December 4, 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  7. ^ Lasdun, James (2 May 2008). "Children of the revolution". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  8. ^ Row, Jess (July 13, 2008). "Circling the Square". New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Cheuse, Alan (June 29, 2008). "'Beijing Coma' fuses China's past, present". SF Gate. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  10. ^ Aw, Tash (26 Apr 2008). "A story of Tiananmen Square". Telegraph. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  11. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (July 4, 2008). "A Broken Body in Shiny, New China". New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  12. ^ Lane, Victoria (17 Apr 2012). "A Letter from China". Telegraph. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Page, Benedicte (19 April 2012). "Ma Jian protest paints the London Book Fair red". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 19 April 2012. 

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