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Ma Jian

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1953-    ) Chinese-born painter, photographer and author, in Britain since 1999 and naturalized as a British subject, whose anti-Communist writings made him persona non grata in his native land. His exile status has not only conferred upon him an international celebrity, but also a removal from the traditional chronology of bibliography, with some of his books appearing first in translation, preceding the publication of the original texts in Chinese. Banned in mainland China ever since his debut novella "Liang Chu Ni de Shutai huo Kongkong Dangdang" (February 1987 Renmin Wenxue; trans Flora Drew as title story of Stick Out Your Tongue coll 2006 chap), he was intimately involved with the era's protest movement, and briefly worked as an editor and publisher in 1990s Hong Kong, concentrating on works banned in mainland China.

Ma's early works occasionally engage with Equipoisal issues, such as Sihuo ["Bardo"] (1989), in which two lovers are reunited and parted by Reincarnation throughout Chinese history. Lamian-zhe (2002; trans Flora Drew as The Noodle Maker 2004) is an increasingly outlandish Club Story in which a frustrated author recounts to his dining companion all the tales he would tell, if only he were free to do so. Parts of Yin Zhi Dao (2012; trans Flora Drew as The Dark Road 2013) are narrated by the soul of an unborn child – the book's publication saw Ma Jian forbidden to re-enter the People's Republic.

Ma put genre tropes to more extensive polemical use in Beijing Zhiwuren (2009; trans Flora Dew as Beijing Coma 2008), the subject of which is a student in an apparent vegetative state since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. He regains consciousness after twenty years to find China drastically changed (see Sleeper Awakes). Ma's later Zhongguo Meng (2018; trans Flora Drew as China Dream 2018) draws on one of the slogans that has dominated Chinese public policy since 2013, imagining a Party official tasked with creating a Drug to ensure that the Basilisks of Party loyalty and state harmony dominate citizen's sleeping hours as much as they do their days. Similar concepts have been explored in the genre, entirely without censure, by the likes of Chen Qiufan and Ma Boyong, and with some establishment resistance in the case of Mainstream Writers of SF such as Chan Koonchung and Han Song, suggesting that it is Ma's extra-literary activities, in publishing, proclamation and protest, that have most antagonized the Chinese authorities. [JonC]

see also: Wang Lixiong, Xu Zhuodai.

Ma Jian

born Qingdao, China: 18 August 1953

works (selected)

  • Sihui ["Bardo"] (Hong Kong/Taipei: Taiwan Zongdaili Haifeng Chubanshe, 1989) [binding unknown/]
  • Lamian-zhe ["The Noodle Maker"] (Hong Kong/Taipei: Taiwan Zongdaili Haifeng Chubanshe, 1991) [binding unknown/]
    • The Noodle Maker (London: Chatto and Windus, 2004) [trans of the above by Flora Drew: pb/]
  • Stick Out Your Tongue (London: Chatto and Windus, 2006) [coll: chap: trans by Flora Drew of 1987 novella "Liang Chu Ni de Shutai huo Kongkong Dangdang" and other stories: hb/]
  • Beijing Zhiwuren ["Beijing Vegetative State"] (New York: Mingjing Chubanshe, 2009) [binding unknown/]
    • Beijing Coma (London: Chatto and Windus, 2008) [trans of the above by Flora Drew: hb/]
  • Yin zhi Dao = Dark Road (Taipei: Yunchen Wenhua Shiye Gufen Youxian Gongsi, 2012) [English language on cover as shown: binding unknown/]
    • The Dark Road (London: Chatto and Windus, 2013) [trans of the above by Flora Drew: hb/]
  • China Dream (London: Chatto and Windus, 2018) [trans of Chinese manuscript by Flora Drew: hb/]


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