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Ma Jian  [ China ]

Biography

Portrait Ma
Copyright Ma Jian / C. Flora Drew

Guest 2014, 2015, 2017.

Bibliography

The Noodle Maker

Chatto & Windus

London, 2004

[engl. Ü: Flora Drew]

Stick Out Your Tongue

Chatto & Windus

London, 2006

[engl. Ü: Flora Drew]

Peking-Koma

Rowohlt

Reinbek, 2009

[Ü: Susanne Höbel]

Red Dust

Drei Jahre unterwegs durch China

SchirmerGraf

München, 2009

[Ü: Barbara Heller]

Die dunkle Straße

Rowohlt

Reinbek, 2015

[Ü: Susanne Höbel]

Ma Jian was born in the harbour city of Qingdao in the Chinese province of Shandong in 1953. He worked in a chemical plant, then moved to Beijing to work as a photojournalist for a state-owned magazine. There he joined an underground experimental group of artists, and organized secret exhibitions of his paintings. After his paintings were confiscated by the police, he resigned from his job and embarked on a three-year journey across China and Tibet.

On his return to Beijing he wrote »Stick Out Your Tongue« (1986), a novella inspired by his travels. He later said that writing allowed him to express his view of the world more clearly than was possible with visual arts. Shortly after its publication, the government denounced the work as an example of »bourgeois liberalism«, destroyed all copies and placed a blanket ban on any subsequent publications of Ma’s works. He moved to Hong Kong to continue writing in freedom, and set up the »New Era« publishing company and »Trends« literary magazine to publish texts banned in China. After the Handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997, he taught Chinese literary history at Ruhr University in Bochum, and a year later moved to London with his wife Flora Drew, who translates his works into English. Although all his books have been banned in China since 1987, he continued to return to China regularly, spending many months a year in Beijing, until he was finally refused entry in 2011. In his 900-page novel »Beijing Coma« (2008) he describes the student movement of 1989 that was crushed in the Tiananmen Massacre, and the subsequent years of repression that followed through the eyes of a student left in a coma after sustaining a head injury during events. Each of Ma Jian’s novels is usually inspired by a memorable image. For »Beijing Coma«, it was the image of a sparrow nesting on the arm of a comatose man; for his most recent novel »The Dark Road« (2013), about the Chinese government’s brutal enforcement of the one child policy, it was the image of a pregnant woman drifting down the Yangtze River on a ramshackle barge. Based on months of research in China’s remote hinterlands, Ma Jian draws the reader’s attention in vividly descriptive language to the millions of people living on the sidelines of the economic boom.

Because of his demands for freedom of expression and for the release of political prisoners, Ma Jian’s works have been banned in China for thirty years, but have been translated into many languages. Recognized as one of China’s leading authors, he is the recipient of the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award (2002) for »Red Dust« (2003), the China Free Culture Prize (2009), the TR Fyvel Book Award (2009) from the Index on Censorship, a campaigning publishing organization, as well as the Athens Prize for Literature (2010). Ma lives in London and is currently a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

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