...a biting and humane novel of stunning concision ... Bleakly funny, incisive, stinging and – in its most destabilising passages – gut-wrenching, China Dream, brilliantly translated by Flora Drew, is set at a time when reality and dystopia have begun to bleed into one another ... 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.
The wit has returned in China Dream — a short, highly satirical work no less excoriating than any of Ma’s previous fiction, translated in a graphic, stylish manner by Drew ... Not for nothing has Ma been called both the Orwell and Solzhenitsyn of Chinese literature; his depiction of a totalitarian state is lancing ... Scenes that are fantastical but also based on reality are Ma’s speciality ... Believable and brutal, this is Ma’s boldest and, despite its brevity, most elegiac work.
Ma’s writing echoes writers such as Borges and Kafka in its absurdism, but its imagery is also filmic ... It is a style which suits the modern China it depicts, matching both its concrete reality and its nightmarish illogicality ... the novel’s brevity is also one of its charms ... The vignettes which form each chapter offer brief but rich visions of the protagonist’s descent into madness, and the novel has a power, literary and political, disproportionate to its length ... a book which compellingly reveals the paranoia of the modern Chinese state.
Ma, a fierce critic of Xi Jinping’s regime who currently lives in exile in London with his wife and translator Flora Drew, satirically takes the idea of brainwashing even further—why stop with the conscious mind? ... While these satirical descriptions of modern China are ultimately entertaining, China Dream’s strengths lie in its description of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution—Ma Jian has a Proustian sensibility with the brutal eye of Isaac Babel.
As with the best satire, the most shocking details in the novel are the ones that are true. The tragic, horrible, bloody history of the Communist Party’s rule is thoroughly cataloged ... In Flora Drew’s adept translation, Ma’s straightforward prose never upstages the story. The vivid descriptions of violence, sex, and debauchery don’t soar to poetic heights, but steadfastly deliver the gory details with unstinting precision.
... opens with a foreword written in London in March 2018 that reverberates through the hollow space of Xi’s lies ... give[s] testament to the irrepressible gravitation of human consciousness toward inner and shared truth, whether it’s something we want to see or not.
[A] compact, savage satire ... Mr Ma’s hand-grenade (or stink-bomb) of a book is bitter and farcical ... The satirical buffoonery is garnished with both horror and tenderness. Flora Drew translates with a keen ear for switches of voice and tone ... If China Dream is a slighter work than Mr Ma’s major novels...it shares their courage and outrage.
... relentless and absurd ... Ma throws a glass of cold water on the collectively dreaming Chinese society in this novel of dichotomies ... Ma Jian’s brutal political discourse would be nothing without the power and creativity he wields as a writer. His level of detail is damning.
In China Dream, his writing is most profound when depicting the human cost of an imposed national dream. A forced demolition of a clan village, presided over by Ma Daode, reflects the real practice of forced eviction. As his own past nightmares catch up with him, Ma Daode finds himself consumed by his search for the intangible 'dream.' Ever critical of a regime intent on stamping out dissent, Ma’s biting voice lays bare a brutal reality that cannot be ignored.
His latest novel presents his sharpest and most intimate vision yet ... 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.
How do you make sure everyone’s on board with the program in a totalitarian state? In Ma’s (The Dark Road, 2013, etc.) imaginative telling, you make sure they share the same dream ... A masterwork of political satire, meaningful without heavy-handedness.
...a bold, searing indictment of present-day China and a lyrical exposé of the false utopia created by the Communist Party ... Written 'out of rage' according to Ma’s foreword, the fable subverts the propaganda of Xi’s Chinese Dream and chronicles the descent into madness of the louche, corrupt government functionary Ma Daode ... This is an inventive yet powerful confrontation of China’s past and present.