Beijing Coma, By Ma Jian

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The Independent Culture

This fearless epic of history and memory establishes the exiled Ma Jian as the Solzhenitsyn of China's forgetful drive towards world-domination.

Above all, this is the definitive Tiananmen Square novel. Ma not only delivers a dramatic, blow-by-blow narrative of the student protest movement in Beijing and its bloody suppression. He exposes the still-raw wounds from Mao's Cultural Revolution that lay behind the 1989 revolt.

Then, via the device of a comatose survivor stranded in a changing land, we see the city and country flee its hidden trauma into a long aftermath of wealth-creating mania.

Yet, as the Olympics nears and the family flat where he guards this past falls to the bulldozers, this orgy of consumption begins to fray into renewed dissent.

For all its documentary value, this true landmark work – in Flora Drew's engrossing translation – always grips and moves as fiction on a human scale.