Ma Daode 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. But 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.
...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.