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China Dream

A Novel

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ON SALE: May 7, 2019 | Hardcover | 5.5 x 8.25, 176 pages | ISBN 9781640092402
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One of the year’s most anticipated novels in translation, written by an acclaimed Chinese author whose entire body of work has been banned by his home country, and published in the thirtieth-anniversary year of the Tiananmen Square Massacre 

Ma Daode is feeling pleased with himself. He has just been appointed Director of the China Dream Bureau, tasked with overwriting people’s private dreams with President Xi’s great China Dream of national rejuvenation. He has an impressive office, three properties and a bevy of mistresses texting him night and day.

But just as Ma Daode is putting the finishing touches to his plan for a mass golden wedding anniversary celebration, things take an uneasy turn. Suddenly plagued by flashbacks of the Cultural Revolution, Ma Daode’s nightmares from the past threaten to undo his dream of a glorious future.

In China Dream, Ma Jian takes the reader on a tragicomic ride through the horrors and absurdities of totalitarian power. His dystopian vision is set not in the future, but in China today. Written to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, China Dream is revealing of China’s moral crises, and what happens to a nation blinded by materialism and governed by violence and lies. In a moment when the characterization of reality is vulnerable to the whims of power, it also poses wider questions that are blisteringly resonant about the way we perceive, understand, and manipulate our histories, as individuals and as a society.

About Ma Jian

MA JIAN was born in Qingdao, China, in 1953. He is the author of Stick Out Your Tongue, four collections of short stories and essays, and six further novels. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He now lives in exile in London. Since the banning of his first book thirty years ago, none of his works have been allowed to appear in China.

FLORA DREW’s translations from the Chinese include Ma Jian’s Red DustThe Noodle MakerStick Out Your TongueBeijing Coma and The Dark Road.

Praise

Praise for China Dream

Financial Times Best Book of the Year
The Millions Most Anticipated Book of the Year

One of Vulture‘s Spring Books to Watch Out For

“Red Guards meet Kurt Vonnegut . . . powerful!” —Margaret Atwood, via Twitter

China Dream is a sharper political allegory than Mr. Ma’s earlier novels. It crackles with bruising satire of Chinese officialdom, and an acerbic wit that vaguely recalls Gary Shteyngart’s sendup of Russian oligarchs in Absurdistan, or even Nikolai Gogol’s portraits of Russia’s provincial aristocrats in Dead Souls . . . China Dream may be the purest distillation yet of Mr. Ma’s talent for probing the country’s darkest corners and exposing what he regards as the Communist Party’s moral failings.” —Mike Ives, The New York Times

“Novelists like Ma Jian (especially his recent China Dream) are producing sly and savage works of international literature, exploring—and exploding—the implications of China’s recent accelerated modernization program and its global economic ambitions under the leadership of Xi.” —Joseph Salvatore, The Los Angeles Times

“Ma has a marksman’s eye for the contradictions of his country and his generation, and the responsibilities and buried dreams they carry. His perceptiveness, combined with a genius for capturing people who come from all classes, occupations, backgrounds and beliefs; for identifying the fallibility, comedy and despair of living in absurd times, has allowed him to compassionately detail China’s complex inner lives. Censoring his novels and banning his name have been Beijing’s cynical response to Ma’s artistry, and to the human lives that the novelist cannot forget, even as the Chinese Dream envelops them.” —Madeleine Thien, The Guardian

“Mr. Ma’s critique of the totalitarian mindset recalls that of Soviet-era dissidents . . . tragic and elegiac . . . garnished with both horror and tenderness.” —The Economist 

“A bold, searing indictment of present-day China and a lyrical exposé of the false utopia created by the Communist Party and its current leader-for-life, Xi Jinping . . . [China Dream] is an inventive yet powerful confrontation of China’s past and present.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[A] deeply felt satire . . . Perhaps most absurd, Ma Jian seems to suggest, is the government’s attempts to bury a past filled with so many skeletons. There will always be people like Ma Daode who remember even what they’d rather forget.” —Hank Stephenson, Shelf Awareness

“Ma (The Dark Road, 2013) has forged an impressive literary career by criticizing the government of the country of his birth, from which his work has been banned for 25 years. His latest novel presents his sharpest and most intimate vision yet, one that delves into the everyday lives of the wealthy elite . . . In his startling and irreverent parody, Ma finds compassion amid the sex and violence that shape a history of injustice and a nation’s vulnerability.” —Booklist (starred review)

“A masterwork of political satire, meaningful without heavy-handedness.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A short, highly satirical work no less excoriating than any of Ma’s previous fiction, translated in a graphic, stylish manner by [Flora] Drew, [the author’s wife and longtime translator].” —The Financial Times

“Wrenching . . . makes President Xi’s vision of national prosperity look like a recipe for insanity.” —Simon Willis, 1843

“[Ma Jian] is one of the most respected and discussed of all contemporary Chinese authors . . . His devastating wit and experimental style are used to deconstruct both the history and the political reality of everyday life in China.” —World Literature Today

China Dream is a magnificent work in its unerring take on China, Ma Jian giving voice to the ghosts and memories of a silenced nation.” —Mike Cormack, South China Morning Post Magazine

“It’s a wonderfully well-paced, absorbing, darkly satirical and even funny at times.” —UK Press Syndication

“A scathing satire of the absurd reality facing a silenced nation” —South China Morning Post

“A master of inimitable humour. Always hilarious, thought-provoking, and immensely moving.” —Jung Chang, author of Wild Swansand Empress Dowager Cixi

“In a not-too-unfamiliar dystopic China, Ma Daode is appointed head of the China Dream Bureau, a government agency that erases civilians’ dreams and replaces them with the president’s authoritarian propaganda for a better China. In a series of dream sequences, Ma Daode plans an epic golden wedding anniversary for him and his wife but is simultaneously plagued by his own violent and tragic memories of the Cultural Revolution. As Ma Daode’s past bubbles to the surface, threatening his inner peace and adherence to the president’s dream of China’s ‘rejuvenation,’ Ma Jian crafts a hauntingly frantic but poignant narrative about retribution and reconciliation. As he comes to realize that the only way to be at peace in his mind is to erase these memories once and for all, Ma Daode’s confrontation with his country’s history serves as a painful but necessary exploration of the effects of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Ma Jian’s prose, banned in China, is unflinching and razor-sharp, combining political critique with a gripping narrative that will leave you devouring the final pages.” —Morgan McComb, The Raven Book Store (Lawrence, KS)

“As horrifying and unbelievable as this short novel was, the impact was profound. Ma Jian’s satirical but real analysis of the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist wealthy and the undeniable need for the human spirit to be granted freedom are loud and deep.” —Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana (Frederick, MD)

Praise for The Dark Road

“In The Dark Road, as in Beijing Coma, Mr. Ma is adept at jolting our senses, transporting us, with a few words about a pain, a taste or an odor, to those parts of China, and millions of people, who exist on the far fringes of the economic miracle. “—The New York Times

“Unflinching and luridly revealing.” —The New Yorker

“As powerful a China novel as any I’ve read.” —Stephen Mosher, The Washington Times

“The Dark Road is arguably one of the most painfully gritty and important books of the year.” —Bustle

“Deeply compelling.” —Bookforum

Praise for Beijing Coma

“An extraordinarily effective novel . . . for all its savagery, it is one of the most optimistic novels I’ve encountered in a long time.” —Jess Row, The New York Times Book Review

“[A] masterful new novel . . . Ma Jian offers the Chinese people an avenue through which to retrieve their souls.” —Belle Yang, The Washington Post

“There are passages of extraordinary power, which, in chronicling the horrors perpetrated by the Chinese government in the Mao era and after, belong in the pantheon of dissident literature.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Evocative . . . Part of what gives [Beijing Coma] its highly energized, manic edge is the fierceness of Ma Jian’s conviction that it might be possible for a work of literature to function as a lifeline to cast out into the world.” —Francine Prose, The New York Review of Books

“So remarkable is it that we should suddenly receive this gift, an account of Tiananmen as breathless as John Reeds’ gee-whiz account of the Russian Revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World, I’ve almost neglected to mention how carefully Ma Jian constructs his time capsule.” —John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine

“An epic novel that reminds us of the capacity of fiction to stir the conscience and exhorts us to believe in the power of even one voice.” —Tom Cooper, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A courageous and clarion writer.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

Praise for The Noodle Maker

“One of the most important and courageous voices in Chinese literature.” —Gao Xingjian, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature

“A superb comedian . . . this antic nihilist is hard to beat.” —Los Angeles Times

“These stories reflect the changing repressive conditions of modern China . . . Two friends tell each other absurd stories in which a strange cast of characters negotiate the narrow space between party rules and criminal ‘bourgeois liberalism.’” —The Boston Globe

“Clever and humorous . . . Constructed with a good deal of artfulness . . . Fans of the absurdity and dark humor of Milan Kundera’s portraits of life behind the Iron Curtain will appreciate these same elements in Ma Jian’s work.” —The Baltimore Sun

“Milan Kundera with a laugh track . . . One writer especially unafraid to flip off the Old Guard [and] still too punk to be found on Chinese bookshelves, even today.” —Nerve.com

Brave New World territory, where national euphemisms attempt to obscure the nation’s true horrors . . . Richly drawn characters . . . The Noodle Maker is a remarkable achievement.” —Time Out New York

“Here, black comedy meets eviscerating social commentary . . . Jian blends fact and fantasy with such beauty that China appears as potent a land for fiction as it is implausible for free speech.” —V Magazine

“Playful and wonderfully dark, it confirms Jian as a Chinese Kundera or Mrozek or Gogol. The funniest book I’ve read in a long time.” —Philip Marsden, author of The Bronski House

“Mordantly satirical fiction to capture the grim paradoxes of late-twentieth-century China . . . Ma Jian mixes in sections of the writer’s fragmented yet utterly involving novel . . . Echoing Gogol and offering an urban variation on the themes of Nobel Prize-winner Gao Xingjian, Ma Jian presents a bleak yet compelling vision of an aberrant society in which people are caught in the grip of capricious and treacherous power and starved for kindness, beauty, and reason.” —Booklist

“Ma’s spare meal of a novel provides an excellent counterpoint to the sumptuous lyrical banquet Soul Mountain by Nobel Prize winner and fellow expatriate Gao Xingjian.” —Publishers Weekly

“Succinct and right on target . . . Blistering satire.” —Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Stick Out Your Tongue

“Extraordinary . . . Ma Jian has burned through the fog of fantasy that clouds our vision of Tibet: He has shown us how poverty and political repression have deformed its once rich and vibrant culture.” —Francine Prose, People

“These powerful pages . . . are hard to shake from one’s memory and remain . . . testimony to the storytelling artistry of Ma Jian.” —The Washington Post

“The people Ma Jian transfigures, the images of a Tibet where the living and the dead seem to mingle with beauty and unease, all this becomes quite a striking souvenir of our own high altitude pilgrimage through these exotic pages.” —NPR’s “All Things Considered”

“A succinct, haunting set of stories.” —Elle

“Ma has a keen sense for both the feral and the deeply spiritual in his characters. The book was published in China in 1997; all of Ma’s subsequent work has been banned there.” —Publishers Weekly

“[T]hose who have read Xinran’s Sky Burial will recognize the irony of hardship placed upon the human spirit set against the striking beauty offered by the Tibetan landscape. Academic libraries, larger public libraries, and those with collections of Asian fiction may want to add this title.” —Library Journal

“The bleak settings and spare language work well together, thanks to translator Drew. Powerful, disturbing and complex.” —Kirkus Reviews

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