Dai Wei is a medical student and a pro-democracy protestor in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Caught by a soldier's bullet, he falls into a deep coma; as soon as the hospital authorities discover he is an activist, his mother is forced to take him home. She allows pharmacists access to Dai Wei's body and sells his urine and his left kidney to fund special treatment from Master Yao, a member of the outlawed Falun Gong sect. But during a government crackdown, the Master is arrested and Dai Wei's mother - who has fallen in love with him - loses her mind.
The millennium draws near and Dai Wei has been in a coma for almost a decade. A sparrow flies through the window and lands on his naked chest; it is a sign that Dai Wei must emerge from his dry cocoon. But China has also undergone a massive transformation in the time that he has been absent. As he prepares to take leave of his old metal bed, Dai Wei realises that the rich imaginative world afforded to him as a coma patient is a startling contrast with the death-in-life of the world outside.
MA JIAN was born in Qingdao, China, in 1953. He is the author of Stick Out Your Tongue, his debut novel which in 1987 led to the permanent banning of his books in China; Red Dust, winner of the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; four collections of short stories and essays; and six further novels, including Beijing Coma, winner of the Index on Censorship Book Award and the Athens Prize for Literature. His last book, The Dark Road, nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, saw him barred from returning to China. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He now lives in exile in London.
"This is an epic yet intimate work that deserves to be recognised and to endure as the great Tiananmen novel ... a magnificent book brim-full of humanity, insight and humour ... beautifully translated by Flora Drew"
"Once in a while - perhaps every 10 years, or even every generation - a novel appears that profoundly questions the way we look at the world, and at ourselves. Beijing Coma is a poetic examination not just of a country at a defining moment in its history, but of the universal right to remember and to hope. It is, in every sense, a landmark work of fiction"
"A huge achievement ... a landmark account through fiction of a country whose rise has amazed the world, but which remains cloaked in shadows... finely written and translated"
"A modern literary masterpiece ... Ma Jian has created an intense, passionate and painful-to-read parable for today.. The elegant and bravura writing of Ma Jian is utterly convincing"
"Monumental... splendidly translated by Flora Drew... This vivid, pungent, often blackly funny book is a mighty gesture of remembrance against the encroaching forces of silence"