By chance rather than choice, I came across Ma Jian sometime in early 2017, settling on Red Dust, which sounded like a rollicking document of a largely lost China through the eyes of a wayward humanitarian, much like Gao Xingjian’s staggering Soul Mountain (a book of great importance to me). The title proved to be an absolute treat, in a field of special interest…like, mega delicacy/scoff box. So by way of inevitable inclination – I am led to his recent short novel China Dream, which is based on the current onslaught & thought-repossession of the Chinese country, culture & consciousness, now expressly escalating under the new ‘great helmsman’ Xi Jinping (a fucking cocksucker!). Xi’s ‘crackdown’ & the aggressive & authoritarian curtailment of thoughts, expressions or views outside the ‘party-line’, quite possibly with devastating personal consequences for the erring-individual, have been the blotch of slow seeping cyanide on top of an already ravaged nation, still reeling from the unprecedented steroid-spree of ‘breakneck’ growth that has superseded every other objective no matter the consequence. Trumps weeping rectal poison & defacement & debasement of every political & social decency, sensibility & logic have only emboldened this idiot at a time when the rule book has been reduced to fluttering ash & morality & leadership have been pestilized to pulp.
Things are not good.
Not surprisingly, Ma Jian’s work is banned in China, & he now resides in exile in London & Berlin. Despite something like twenty plus years of residency, he still apparently speaks almost no English, & remains fixated on China & its ongoing transgressions. This distance affords uninhibited expression & analysis, much of which is critical to the misrule transpiring, along with unrestrained criticism of the countries unique history regarding the Great Leap Forward, Tienanmen Square & the Cultural Revolution.
Xi Jinping launched the ‘China Dream’, & with typical low-intellect & zero inventive acuity, settled on plagiarizing the American failure in an act of classic error emulation (its not like the American Dream delivered is it?). the ‘new’ direction was based on a foreign failure…a sham epithet that would help justify the continued destruction & limitation of human freedoms. The twat could not even coin an original phrase to reflect historic Chinese ingenuity. 习是个耻辱!
The story centers on Ma Daode, the director of the Chinese Dream Bureau, an aging technocrat with cognitive-confliction regarding the lie-selling his job requires & his past experiences that occur in flashbacks. The book is really about this man trying to swallow his own lie whilst maintaining sanity & composure. Along the way, the casualties of old & new are washed by in the wreckage. The violence he experienced in his youth as a ‘red guard’ & the current violence of state land-sequestration merging into a singular nightmare. Although this book is a piece of fiction, it is very closely paralleled with the reality (in many cases, I expect incidents covered are verbatim or with the slightest of alteration) that is ongoing at China ground-zero. The mutilation of sentience, relentless & disingenuous optimism for adverse afflictions from growth cathexis, corruption of the psyche & the obliteration of culture at the altar of commerce, greed & ignorance.
As much as I enjoyed the book, I read non-fictionalized accounts & reports of this marching destruction & transgression all the time. As a result, the book certainly did not mesmerize me as did Red Dust due to this difference in criteria & subject. I am not sure how ‘damning’ of China’s modern maladies it is, & I feel it’s way too brief & limited to do the full scope justice. As a concise shot at the lumbering monster with added historical parallax, it’s a pretty fine job though. Jia Zhangke’s ‘A Touch Of Sin’ motion picture is also worth juxtaposition, providing a similar window of brusque exposé. & who should design the books cover but Ai Weiwei.
Ma Jian, Random House, 2018