Read The Noodle Maker: A Novel by Ma Jian Flora Drew Online


From the Thomas Cook prizewinner for Red Dust comes this virtuoso piece of "red humour." Written in the aftermath of the Tiananmen massacre, it is a darkly funny novel about the absurdities and cruelties of life in modern China....

Title : The Noodle Maker: A Novel
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 20221352
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 193 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Noodle Maker: A Novel Reviews

  • Kris
    2018-11-30 22:39

    Ma Jian is a Chinese writer and a dissident. He was born in 1953, so he is part of the generation of Chinese who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution as children and young adults, as well as seeing the implementation -- and the limitations -- of Deng Xiaoping's Open Door economic policy. Ma has not been a silent observer of the myriad ways in which the Chinese government has cracked down on freedom of expression in Chinese society; he has been a member of the dissident community of Chinese artists and writers for decades, both while living in China and Hong Kong, and later from exile in Europe. Ma has suffered for his outspokenness. His Stick Out Your Tongue, published in 1987, was censured and his writings were banned by the Chinese government -- a ban that extended to his future publications.Ma JianIn addition to his earlier commitment to the dissident arts community in China, Ma participated in the 1989 democracy protests in Beijing, which culminated in the Tiananmen Massacre. In the devastating aftermath of this brutal crackdown, Ma remained in Beijing and wrote The Noodle Maker, an extremely dark satire fueled by Ma's anger and disillusionment with Chinese communist society and politics. The novel is framed by an ongoing conversation between a professional blood donor, who has made millions giving blood and providing others with the means to do so despite limitations of height, weight, or frequency of past donations, and a professional writer, who blends his observations of the world around him with his consideration of the characters that populate a novel he is writing, who often seem more real to him than the people he sees around him every day. That interspersing of reality and fantasy holds true throughout The Noodle Maker, which includes healthy strains of surrealism as we move from framing discussions and interjections from the blood donor and the writer, and stories which introduce us to different characters who are dysfunctionally trying to negotiate life in a society where compassion is difficult to find, where empty slogans guide people's lives, where progress is measured not in terms of happiness or fulfillment, but in terms of economic production, material signs of Westernization, and complete adherence to the latest government dictates. The novel's stories combine dark flights of fantasy with brutal action. In one story, an entrepreneur buys a ceramics furnace and opens a crematorium along with his elderly mother, in which he provides a special twist -- mourners can pay for him to play specific musical selections while their loved ones are being cremated. In another, an actress decides on her final performance -- committed suicide on stage by being eaten by a tiger. (view spoiler)[In the most horrifying scene in the novel, a man and his companion, a three-legged dog who speaks Chinese, watch from their terrace as a girl is gang raped. A huge crowd of onlookers gathers and watches, as a group of police slowly try to reach the girl and some government officials hold a meeting -- during the rape -- to decide what actions to take. (hide spoiler)] Ma Jian writes with a white-hot anger that practically drips off the page. This novel accomplished exactly what Ma wanted it to. The characters and stories haunt me. I can't shake them off. As an anguished cry against the inhumanity of life in Communist China, which Ma has devoted his life to fighting, The Noodle Maker is disturbing and difficult to read, but profoundly affecting, one of the strongest examples I have read of dark social satire. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Ema
    2018-11-11 16:51

    The Noodle Maker deserves way better than its current 3.33 rating (will or will not grow over time?). It consists of several loosely interconnected short stories, sometimes with a touch of surreal, often with a delicious dark humor, and mostly absurd.A satire of the Chinese society influenced by the Open Door Policy (instituted by Deng Xiaoping in 1978), this collection has an interesting array of characters: the failed writer who dreams of his big novel, but instead writes political-oriented articles about everyday made-up heroes; the professional blood donor who has become a rich man by exploiting the benefits of his occupation; the jealous actress who wants to get revenge on her lover by committing a most peculiar suicide; the young woman whom nobody thinks is still a virgin because of her rather huge breasts; a talking dog and a man debating over the former's belief that dogs are superior to humans.My favorite was the story of a middle-aged man who was still living with his mother, both taking care of their business - an independent crematorium. Man, was that a bizarre and twisted story! The son has a whole philosophy in choosing the right music for the dead, according to their status in life and the money their relatives pay.There was also a mention of Nicolae Ceaușescu, our late Romanian dictator, in a humorous context (I will attempt a translation below):The year when Ceausescu was due to visit their town, the mayoralty decided to hide the ugliest buildings, on the main boulevards, behind pressed wood panels, painted as to resemble a line of fine-looking houses. Ceausescu was passing in a hurry anyway; what mattered was only his first impression.What Wikipedia says about the author:Ma Jian is a vocal critic of China's Communist regime. His works explore themes and subjects that are taboo in China. He has continually called for greater freedom of expression and the release of jailed writers and other political prisoners. As a result, his books have been banned in China for the last 25 years, and since the summer of 2011, he has been denied entry into the mainland.I strongly recommend this book if you want to get a cynical glimpse of China, if you enjoy dark humor and don't mind a heavy dose of absurd and surreal.P.S.: A piece of music from the "father of Chinese rock", Cui Jian:

  • Aubrey
    2018-12-11 00:42

    Let it be known that I did not read this under the best circumstances: short works give me trouble, short stories even more so, and what with the last few days consisting of the overbearing War and Peace competing with my current under the weather state, I in no way gave this introduction to a brand new author the attention it deserved. Ema and Kris do a far better job, and I am planning on coming back to Ma with Beijing Coma. But enough excuses.Despite all that, I know dark satire when I see it, and Ma's constant references to the Open Door Policy and its capitalistic rampage across Communist China clinched the urgency. The problems stem from my own experiences, deluged as they are in hating the lie of the patriarchal 'free market' without having but the slightest awareness of the social, cultural, and historical context Ma is coming from. It was only after finishing the book and subsequently rereading Kris' review that I realized the undercurrent of anger, a truth I couldn't see for all the gratuitous beating and raping and ultimate trivializing of the female form. I will read about the horrors of Communism and Capitalism and appreciate the truth of the stories any day, but not at the expense of myriad female caricatures sacrificed without ado. As mentioned, the work is short, time was shorter, and I didn't have the tools to engage with the stories enough to distract me from one of my major caveats. However, I did very much enjoy the story of the mother and son and their choreographing crematorium, where bodies are burnt to the sound of their favorite music as calculated by their Party status and other officiated characteristics. And, of course, the noodle maker. I understand that metaphor all too well, and will be coming back for more.

  • Lammoth
    2018-12-03 22:50

    За Китай може да се напишат хиляди страници със статистики и примери, но нито една страница няма да притежава силата на разказите от Ма Дзиен, от които може да получиш творческа клаустрофобия и да разбереш защо творците се задушават в подобни тоталитарни системи (или както по-точно може да се опише: авторитарен режим с капиталистическа икономика).В един от разказите Ма Дзиен е описал тази система като ябълка. Писателят-червей яде по инерция от тази ябълка, оставяйки тъмно-кафяви тунели от изпражнения. Червейчето не смее да отиде до центъра на ябълката, защото се страхува да не попадне на вожда Мао и Централния комитет. От време на време си подава главата навън и страхливо се връща малкия свят от постепенно прогниващата ябълка. В "Майсторът на фиде" се засичаме с двама главни герои - с "Професионалният писател", и с "Кръводарителят". Професионалният писател започва да разказва истории за познати хора, които са от работническата класа или са автори, творци. Така Ма Дзиен оформя две групи от герои. От една страна имаме образи от артистичните/интелектуални среди - актриса, художник, поетеса и съпруга й писател, уличен писар. От другата страна са работниците: кръводарител, предприемач с крематориум и неговата майка-съдружник, работничка в завод, обикновени хора. Този сборник обхваща един интересен период от историята на Китай. Началото на "политиката на отворени врати", която позволява на хората вече да имат малка собственост и да развиват бизнес. Китай се отваря малко към света, навлизат модни течения от Запад. Професионалният писател получава задачата да напише пропаганден роман, възхваляващ народния герой от работническата класа Лей Фън. Така писателят се чувства задушен, ограничен, притиснат с огромна тежест, която не му дава друго място, освен това на евтин пропагандатор. Това е и основната линия на "Майсторът на фиде". Този социален задух се проявява и в актрисата, която решава красиво да се самоубие на сцената. Как може да се очаква една жена да е изискана и елегантна, когато израства четейки "Анализ на диктатурата на пролетариата" и "Избрани съчинения" на Мао Дзедун? Ма Дзиен не разглежда само проблемите, пречупени през китайските изкуствени лещи, но ги разширява и в по-глобален мащаб. Както и в "Изплези си езика", така и в това произведение срещаме един много сериозен въпрос относно мястото на жената и нейните права. "Мъжете ни принуждават да носим тези флинтифлюшки", "...всичките ми вкусове и представи са оформени заради мъжете." Един от най-силните разкази е този с бащата, който се опитва да изостави умствено изостаналата си дъщеря, за да може властите да му разрешат да зачене момче. Всеки сам може да си направи изводите. Друг любопитен момент е съжителството между говорещо трикрако куче и художник. Сюрреалистичната нотка на този разказ вибрира и засяга две пласта - първият е отношенията на властите към кучетата, а във втория е поставен въпроса, дали пък ако кучетата вземат властта, няма да се отнасят по-добре към хората. Пореден силен роман на Ма Дзиен, а слабите оценки в goodreads ме озадачават. Явно хората са очаквали твърде пряко и директно да се разказва. А писателите все пак са вид артисти.

  • мини тяло
    2018-12-09 20:37

    Когато нямаме сили да се борим с този насилнически свят, обръщаме се към себе си и започваме сами да се нараняваме.Гъсто, наситено повествование, герои, които отвращават и привличат едновременно. Тежка и болезнена книга, която реже като нож. После дълго се оглеждаме в прорезите. Когато я започнах, хладината на очертанията на въздуха почти ме беше заблудила, че зимата се връща. Дочитам я в едно лудо 48-часово денонощие, в което денят и нощта размиват границите си. Сега отвън се носи миризма на лято – такова, каквото го усещам от малка, ухаещо на горещо дърво, на огън, на пепел. Нищо не се е променило кой-знае колко – само един сезон, но добре знаем, че разстоянието никога не е само един сезон.Книга за тоталитарно мракобесие, толкова далечно от мен – във всички смисли, некомпетентна се чувствам да говоря за него, – но същевременно адски важна за разбирането на онова, което е било, онова, което е отвъд ширините ни (не само географски, а понятийни и пр.), и най-вече на онова, което продължава да се случва.Дори тук, дори сега.

  • Nick
    2018-12-07 22:49

    "The Noodle Maker", for me, oscillates between two and three stars. The skill is undeniable--the occasionally lovely passage and, more importantly, full characters and a coherent, if shattering, vision. This is the post-Maoist, crony capitalism of the current People's Republic, and Ma Jian's dissection of it is withering. Two friends meet for dinner--a writer and a man who runs a blood-donation ring that supplies what the wealthy ill seek. Most of the novel is made up of stories that the writer wants to tell, rather than the orthodox patriotism that he is paid very little for. They are stories of a world poisoned by corruption and despair: a man who makes an excellent living catering to wishes for an impressive cremation, an actress who commits suicide as performance art, a talentless literary editor who exploits the women writers who seek publication (with the possible exception of his wife, with whom he is engaged in a Strindbergian dance of death), a man who makes his living writing letters of faithless love, a girl persecuted for her beauty, and an assassinated talking dog who makes greater sense than most if not all of the humans. I have read books written out of despair before, but never put one down with a sense that it is a work without hope. Yet any power that its refutation of hope fades when placed beside the outrage of Ai Weiwei that addresses corruption irrefutably--I am thinking of the wall of small backpacks that evokes the death of children during an earthquake because of the shoddy construction of their schools. In the end, perhaps Ma Jian's letter writer says it best: "My first piece of advice is: never believe anything a man tells you. Above all, never trust a writer--they trap you in a web of words from which there is no escape. They make their living making things up, they are professional liars." Very post-modern, with more than a teaspoon of truth, but in the end paralyzing.

  • Stephen Durrant
    2018-11-26 22:28

    A scathing and sometimes funny portrayal of the period just after Deng Xiaoping's proclamation of the Open Door Policy and encouragement of capitalist initiatives. Suddenly every kind of small enterprise popped up, and ideals, whether traditional or Maoist, evaporated. Ma Jian satirizes this period with such characters as a professional blood donor, a young man who buys a pottery kiln and uses it for his own small cremation business, a woman who sacrifices herself on stage to a tiger as a piece of performance art, and others who wander through this novel, which is constructed from a series of interwoven stories. What binds these stories together is that they all seem to emerge from the fantasies, or perhaps experiences, of a professional writer who seems unable to write but quite capable of oral narration. The writer reaches the conclusion of his stories, and the nadir of his pessimism, with the tale of a three-legged dog who can talk and presents the argument that dogs are far superior to humans. One indeed finds little justification in this novel to believe otherwise. Ma Jian's book is one of the best satires I have read of the moral bankruptcy of those years, and, I regret to say, much of what he describes here resonates in contemporary China as well. Expect to be shocked, and at times disgusted, but this is an instructive read.

  • Greta
    2018-11-15 23:41

    Кошмарният сюреализъм на Ма Дзиен е велик.Героите му са изтъкани от нескончаеми зависимости, които ги правят неспособни да се самоопределят в отсъствието на другия. Тези сдвоени персонажи - някои устойчиви, други лабилни и летливи - често проявяват (авто)агресия, което може да смути по-чувствителния читател. Краят беше великолепен и само заради него "Майсторът на фиде" заслужава далеч по-висок рейтинг от даденото му до момента (първи абзац на 184стр. - уау!).Книгата е тежка, дори вулгарна, но майсторски написана.Препоръчвам със забележката, че може да смути съня.

  • Moshe Mikanovsky
    2018-11-16 00:48

    A courageous voice into the Chinese cultural revolution, painted with sad and miserable characters that don't know they are that way because of the brainwashing of the Party since they were born. The characters are sometimes named but more importantly defined by their occupation, their abuse, the sexist way they act towards others, and their relationship with the Party. Very powerful story telling.

  • Mel
    2018-11-18 23:37

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009"The Noodle Maker" by Ma Jian The Noodle Maker by Ma Jian (1991, trans. from Chinese 2004 by Flora Drew) is the 3rd work I have read for Jeannie's Chinese Challenge. The Challenges runs from Sept 1, 2009 to Sept 1, 2010. I have posted prior to this on The Uninvited and Miss Chopsticks. The Noodle Maker is set China, in the 1980s. It begins with two old friendly enemies having dinner together as they often do. One is a writer of articles for the government about heroic workers giving their lives to save pigs on state farms. The other is a professional blood donor who has found a way to become wealthy and have a big social standing by donating his blood. (How this can happen is just part of the wonderful twisted humor of this book.) The writer dreams of one day giving up his party propaganda work and writing the great novel he has been working on in his mind for years. The blood donor tells him he is a delusional fool and should just try to write more and better stories about heroic workers who would rather work themselves to death than miss their factory production quotas. After the opening chapter in which the two lead characters have a meal and solve the problems of China, the book develops into a set of very loosely related tales (each could stand on its own a short story) that are ideas for the book the writer hopes to write one day. The blood donor feels free to but in at times telling the writer how stupid his stories are. There are eight stories. The first one sort of explains how the blood donor got rich during the period of the open door policy. The second one is an insane story about a mother and her 35 year old son who run a for profit crematorium where much care is devoted to considering what songs to play while your love one is burned. The son tells us all about dead bodies in China, what days certain types of people die on etc. He is always happy to see a party official come in as it is time for some well deserved revenge on the oppressor. He has observations on all the people brought in, sort of summing up their lives in a few words, grave yard humor at it best or worst. (If you are a young attractive female I would not go here for cremation).One of the stories is about a once beautiful actress (women are very much valued based on the appeal of their bodies in the world of The Noodle Maker ) who decides to kill herself by having a tiger eat her on stage. The owner of the venue sees nothing odd about this and is maybe interested in allowing her to do it but then agrees when she offers to have sex with him, if he feels like it. There is nobody with a healthy self image in this world.One chapter "Let the Mirror Be the Judge" is a viciously nasty look at the reaction of the women in a small all female office to a new twenty year old coworker with what seem to be ideal breasts. The character of women is somehow reflected in the size and shape of their breasts in common folk views. Large round breast signify a virtuous wife and a good mother. Medium size means the woman is suitable as a mistress.A woman with small breasts is normally the most intelligent sort. The other women hate the new employee with perfect breasts as soon as they see her. When she leaves the office they speculate about her breasts. The office manager, a totally loveless 51 year old, says her breasts are large because she has allowed many men to fondle them. (This is presented as assumed to be true by all common sense.) Some of the women insist she must make use of a breast pump, another speculates that she had implants. All of them assume the woman, who has never had any sort of romantic encounter in her life, is very promiscuous and freely tell everyone who knows her this. One of the women pretends to be her friend then asks her to let her see her breasts. The woman is driven to despair by this and begins to take sleeping pills. One take she decides to prove to everyone that her breasts are real by running naked through the streets. Her and her family end up discgraced and they move to the country side. She ends up married years later to a farm work, still never having had the first romantic episode in her life. The farmer finds about her old reputation and assumes he has been tricked into marrying a woman with a very bad past and beats her for the rest of her life. This is presented as if it were a simple narration of normal events and attitudes.No one in this book is spared. Nobody comes off looking good. Men are sexual predators and women are all one step above prostitutes. This is not presented as if it were a bad thing, it simply life in China. Every body is envious of anything someone else has and takes joy in the misfortunes of others. If someone out ranks you, suck up to them until they are out then suck up to whoever takes their place. If someone is below you, exploit them as much as you can. Personal relationships are power struggles not partnerships. Life is a macabre joke so grab all the pleasure you can. One of the funniest chapters is a debate between a dog and a man who mouths the party line on everything because he is scared to do otherwise. No one is seen as actually believing in the party doctrines but everyone pretends they do. The Noodle Maker is a very funny book. It is a bit nasty twisted kind of laughter. I thought to myself, these things should not be treated as jokes then I wanted to get onto the next joke. If you can imagine George Orwell and Nikolai Gogol collaborating on a Mad Magazine article illustrated by R C Crumb and you sort of can see the flavor of this hilarious evil book. Tyranny does not stand up well against laughter. I endorse this book for those with a bit of a twisted sense of humor but will advise parts of it shows misogistic actions and thoughts. There is sexual violence. In fact the only admirable character in the book is a talking dog. Ma Jian's writings are banned in China. He now lives in England.

  • Gastón
    2018-11-30 19:34

    El título del libro, en su traducción al español, es "El escritor, las mujeres y el partido". Narra la extensa charla entre un escritor que quiere dejar LA gran novela y un donante compulsivo de sangre. Ambos, entre bebidas y cigarros, se critican y amigan, hablan de la vida y presentan sus puntos de vista. Tal situación sirve como excusa para relatar una serie de nueve cuentos que van desde críticas satíricas al régimen socialista chino, hasta cuentos de carácter ontológico, pasando por los que hablan de mujeres sufridas, mujeres luchadoras, hombres reprimidos, etc. Es el primer libro que leo de Ma Jian y me sorprendió gratamente. Un gran disidente del gobierno chino y con un hermoso humor ácido.

  • Bjorn
    2018-11-14 19:26

    The Noodle Maker (2004) is set during the early 90s, in a China supposedly transformed by Deng's reform politics; everything is for sale now, you can go to McDonald's, you can start your own business feeding, clothing or burying your fellow comrades, women are learning to wear western makeup and men to expect them to. Of course, deep down, not much has changed; communism falling in Albania and Romania and the Tiananmen square massacre pretty much go unreported in favour of renewed efforts by the Party to find new ways of maintaining control. As long as you can control what people read and watch, you control what they want to spend their newfound wealth on, and so you can sit back and let capitalism serve the greater goal.The novel finds two friends sharing dinner: a writer, who never does anything but write what he's told, and a blood donor. That's his profession: he sells his own blood, is paid in cash, and spends his money on western goods and eastern women. The writer is complaining that he's been commissioned to write yet another book praising a revolutionary hero. You're the one who chose to be a writer, says his friend; what the hell did you expect? You can't change anything. And so the writer starts telling him what he wants to write but isn't allowed to. Cue a series of interwoven short stories about men and women he knows (or knows of, or just made up) and their attempts to find their way out of a situation where three seemingly opposing systems - old traditions, Maoist dogma and cutthroat capitalism - work beautifully together to keep everything as it was.OK, it's not perfect; Ma is a little too fond of epithets (necessary in-story, of course, since the narrator can't name any names), and I'm honestly not sure if some of the views on women presented are supposed to be the characters', the narrator's, or Ma's. But what impresses me about The Noodle Maker isn't just how vivid the stories are, ranging from gallows humour (the way one character can't see a naked woman without praising Mao, for instance) to soul-hurtingly depressing, but also the way the narratives keep getting sneakily hijacked - by the narrator, by the propaganda that inevitably pops up everywhere whether it says "Praise the Party" or "Buy Coke". He does his best to subvert it, but he can never escape it; he can take control of the story as long as he doesn't say it out loud, but language itself has been politicized to the degree that writers can only write in slogans, and characters can only act by either serving something or heroically sacrificing themselves. Orwellian in the best and worst sense.

  • Melanie
    2018-11-17 16:24

    Although this book gives you several glances of the "less pretty" side of the Chinese culture, I must say that I found it dull, boring and awfully pornographic.The book's main story is one of two guys who meet once in a week to share meat and mead, using this opportunity to discuss a couple of aspects of the world around them. One of the guys is a blood donor by profession, the other is a writer who has absolutely no brilliant ideas for his book about the government. Apparently what give the book its name is the fact that nearby where they meet (the writer's apartment) there is a restaurant that makes fish soup and the smell of it always invades the place. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is the meaning of it and its relevance on the whole story, but the metaphor must be really good because I still haven't thought about any relations between them and, frankly, I don't think I'm even slightly interested in knowing it.The book is not fixed on the conversation between this two characters: it shifts through the story of several people belonging to lower classes of the Chinese quotidian. The stories aren't completely bad, but I did not enjoy the writing style and the way the stories were told. Even though they are easy to understand, all of them are somewhat chaotic, don't seem to have a purpose or meaning and gosh, I have yet to see that much pornography in a book that is NOT supposed to be focused on people's sexual lives (which are portrayed in a very gruesome manner, by the way). I wish I was joking about it, but the author actually dedicates a whole chapter in the book to talk about women's breasts.While I do understand that Chinese culture is sexually repressed, I still didn't find any of the sex scenes necessary in the story. Ma Jian also seems to be quite obsessed by the low and grotesque characteristics that humanize people, such as peeing, taking a dump, stinking and stuff like that, which appear very, very frequently.This is a book that probably portrays China as it really is, from the point of view of poor people with decades of political oppression, which doesn't necessarily make it a good book. At least not one that I would recommend.

  • Vanda
    2018-12-01 16:39

    Vítejte v překrásné nové Číně! Máme tu herečku, která si plánuje krvavou sebevraždu na jevišti, podnikatele, který provozuje starou keramickou pec jako krematorium a řadu dalších postav, které, z nedostatku možností se realizovat jinak, hledají smysl života v leckdy pokřivené lásce. Postavy, s nimiž nás autor seznamuje, jsou všechny do jisté míry vyšinuté: svými nepřiměřenými životními postoji jako by reagovaly na nepřiměřené podmínky, v nichž žijí. Kapitoly tohoto absurdního románu fungují jako samostatné, uzavřené povídky, volně propojené dvěma hlavními protagonisty – dárcem krve a spisovatelem. Dárce krve začínal v malém, prodával svou krev až na hranici vysílení, ale časem se vypracoval a zařídil si výnosný obchod, jehož prostřednictvím podvodně pomáhal menším rybám „darovat“ krev a část jejich zisku si přivlastňoval. Je přesvědčený, že se lidé mají chopit jakékoliv příležitosti, aby v tomto ohavném světě získali to, co potřebují. Spisovatel je idealista, ale tváří v tvář realitě a vlastním pochybením je nakonec jako „mrzák, který dokáže myslet, ale nemůže se ani hnout.“ Ma Ťienovy fantastické příběhy se hemží mluvícími psy, duchy a reakcionářskými kočkami, uchvácený dav nečinně přihlíží skupinovému znásilnění a všichni nakonec jako by pozbývali sil jakkoliv čelit životu. Místy jsem si představovala, že takhle nějak by mohl psát Pavel Juráček, kdyby byl Číňan.

  • Riley Edwards
    2018-11-10 21:43

    Absurd and engaging, this is an odd little book but an interesting one. I take it the writer is not well received by the Chinese administration and I can see why - it is deeply, satirically, critical about about the way the country is run. While its focus of subversion may be firmly set upon China, in many ways it is universal in its analysis of humanity. Well worth a read.

  • Lei
    2018-12-10 21:33

    8 short stories, each like a fable, dark or sad, people struggle or survive or dead, with or without dignity, in a senseless world.

  • Aleya
    2018-11-14 19:47

    Haunting and disturbing, but truly one that you must read. Like it should be magical realism, but this is not magic..just life. Definitely want to read more by Ma Jian

  • Rivka
    2018-12-04 20:28

    Wins the I am uncomfortable and I am laughing and I am going to have bad dreams tonight award

  • T
    2018-12-09 18:49

    Too deep for me, but a short book revolving around two old friends who meet weekly to share a meal and stories. One is wealthy from being a blood donor and shares his wealth in food for meals with his friend the writer. The writer tells the blood donor of his stories, written as chapters of the book. Each chapter providing a link or reference to characters in other chapters, constituting the writer's world. Perhaps the most amusing to me is the chapter of the artist and his discussion with his 3 legged dog who can think and speak and contrasts the canine view of the world versus the human's view.

  • K_rho
    2018-11-11 18:29

    Ce roman dresse le portrait de neufs personnages et, par là, de la Chine communiste et de la politique de l'Ouverture.Si l'auteur critique avec acidité son pays, il n'aime pas non plus ses personnages. Tout est sordide et sale.Le style est lourd, probablement pas aidé par la traduction: "Elle se décida à mettre fin à ses jours par le suicide"On cherche désespérément un peu d'humanité: peut-être que le parti communiste chinois a tout détruit (thèse défendue en filigrane) mais ce ne rend pas la lecture plus plaisante.

  • Addison
    2018-12-01 23:43

    This book is a stunning portrayal of the way in which China was affected following the cultural revolution. It shows the lengths to which people are driven under an oppressive system, which unfortunately leads to some taboo hijinks designed to provide shock value. However, I don't care for political satire, which is all contemporary Chinese writers are able to do. I guess the Eastern canon really suffered because of Communism.5/10

  • Jesus Hills
    2018-11-27 23:50

    The book was okay, a little confusing at first. I didn't realize how connected each story was until i was halfway through the book. But once i realized the interconnectedness of the tales it is easier to follow. nevertheless some stories were more entertaining than others and so my interest waxed and waned throughout the course of the reading. There may have been a cultural barrier that I didn't understand. Still glad i read it but not as amazing as I was told it would be.

  • Dana Kraft
    2018-11-12 00:40

    Meh! I'm not a big fan of dark satire and don't generally care for the kind of surreal stories in this book. That combination was extra challenging for me because I know so little about China. I did like the idea of a "street writer" in one of the stories as opposed to a professional writer. I can see that this guy is a clever writer, I just didn't enjoy these stories.

  • Lara Messersmith-Glavin
    2018-12-03 00:27

    This is a wonderfully dark book, totally different in tone from every other work of fiction I've read from a Chinese author - probably because he's writing from London and not within the realm of the censors. His work was banned in China in 1987, and since then he has lived in Hong Kong, Germany, and now resides in England, where he continues to publish. I bought this book at a local Western bookstore here in Chengdu, so I can only assume it has survived the censors by virtue of being an English translation, and therefore only directly consumable by those who are already morally "lost."The following passages would have me jailed, had I written them:"We grew up in a spiritual vacuum, cut off from the rest of the world. A wasted generation. When the country started to open up, we were the first to fall. Foreign culture is the only religion now, but we have no means to understand it, or appreciate its worth. Half a century has gone by, and suddenly we find ourselves in the forest of modern life without a map or a compass. How can a society numbed by dictatorship ever find its way in the modern world? We are unable to think things through for ourselves, we have no reference points, we feel lost and out of our depth......Everything is decided for you by your superiors...what job you do, who you marry, how many children you have. You have no belief in your ability to control your destiny. Your lives are so dull and monotonous, if you weren't subjected to various trials and tribulations, you would never be strong enough to look death in the face."This book has done more for my sense of understanding China than all of the personal conversations I have had in this country. My own reality demands a sense of darkness, a streak of perversion in all people that binds us together as real and human. This is denied on all levels of candid interaction (in my experience) here. This book, marked by some as simply "humorous," occurs to me as the proof I need to know that these billions I am surrounded by are not exempt from these assumptions I make, that this twisted awareness of desire and self, this strange relationship with fear and ambition and rightness is somehow universal, or at least partly so - that even in this place there are those who struggle in the ways I have always assumed all people struggle.This book revels in impudence, sadomasochism, and the thrilling terror of rebellion. It is also deeply sad, and extremely funny, wrapped in a thin paper shell of dull. I have been wrestling with the title - I have decided that it is a reference to the act of writing as analogous to the creation of hand-pulled noodles, the strands that are interconnected and yet nevertheless stretch to their own individual extent - similar to the chapters of the book which, although interconnected, remain isolate in theme.

  • Anna
    2018-12-09 20:43

    I am not sure what it is with this book. I've had it in my shelf for at least some 10 years, and yet I only read it now. I remember starting it a bit after buying it, but for some reason never got too far. Even though the book is really short, too. I have no idea why. It is not like me to start a book and then not finish it. Even when I don't like the book. And this one wasn't even bad. But now I did finish it, and I'm not sure I am too glad about it.Now, the reason for my mixed feelings is that the beginning and the end of this book seemed quite different. The beginning was more realistic and I enjoyed the way it depicted life in Communist China. The end had sudden, unexplained hints of magical (not the good kind of magical, necessarily, mind) that just felt so weird after the first half of the book. I guess the whole point of the book was to grow more and more surreal. And I just somehow wasn't expecting that (here we go again) and was thus a bit disappointed.Part of the problem of me not getting the idea behind the book and not expecting what was, in retrospect, actually kind of a logical progression to absurdity in this book, was the fact that I have had trouble keeping my eyes open long enough to read more than a few pages at once. And this book, being some 180 pages long, would be perfect to read in one or two stretches. But no. It took me over a week to read this through, and I think that I missed how the story progressed throughout the book, until now that I think about it after finishing it. Still, the first thought after reading the last pages was "..What?!" and I cannot get completely rid of that feeling.There are several kinds of "what!" feelings. This wasn't the good kind. This was the "all this for THAT?" kind of what, rather than the, in my opinion better, "What? No, seriously, you can't do that!" kind of what. I learned a thing or two about Communist China just as it started to open up, I learned a thing or two how people seem to be weird allover, and I realized that I might need to read more Chinese authors. But I am still not sure if I liked the book or of it was just okay. I am so confused!But it is short. And it is interesting for the most part. And I personally like giving writers from different cultural contexts a chance. And I think this was a good choice for that. But I'm still not sure if I really liked it or not. It might take me a while to decide, or even a re-read (as if that would happen any time soon). And if I ever do re-read this, it means it must've been good.

  • Kkraemer
    2018-12-03 23:42

    Two friends have dinner together regularly. They've been friends since they met in the re-education camp when they were in their teens, and these dinners have a sort of ritual to them: one always gripes about something, the other listens, they both eat, they both drink, and their conversation turns to comparing their lives and the contributions they've made to society.The writer was chosen when he was young. He's lived the Party life with a salary and an apartment. He has spent his life writing about interesting people and complicated situations. Yes, he's "assigned" certain themes to represent, but he loves his work (even though he's currently suffering from writer's block) His friend is a professional blood donator. It's the only thing that the Party would allow him to do (other than janitorial work). He donates blood and gets paid for it, and, in the last several years, he has organized a group of subcontractors to donate blood, too. He shares their pay. These blood donations save lives. They have also made him very, very rich.So the two argue about which is the best man. Is it the writer who creates the stories to save people from their darker selves or the blood donor who saves lives? Does income matter? the writer is poor; the blood donor wealthy…who is the more necessary man? In the middle of this argument, the writer begins spinning his stories. These are such amazing stories: one story tells of a man who buys an oven and provides the final "swoon" for corpses as spirits launch from this world to the next through the beautiful sounds of music and the white=hot flames of his oven. Another tells about a playwright/actress who has lost the boundary between truth and fantasy, so writes a single act, one-woman suicide play for herself (the other actor being a tiger). Yet another tracks a street writer whose letters on behalf of lovers, tenants, citizens, sons and daughters invade his thoughts and become his own.This is a book to read with a friend. As you read it, you should get together regularly, eat, perhaps share some wine, and argue about the merits, morality, and meaning of each story to decide what -- really -- it means to live a good life

  • Claire
    2018-11-17 16:37

    What a creative way to tell these short stories, in the context of modern Chinese history. (I do not believe that the backdrop of Ancient Chinese History, which was 311, while Modern was 301 for whatever reason, was of much use.) Now that I am actually clearly thinking about it, I recall absolutely ADORING what Ma Jian did here.You might be warned there are a few awfully unfortunate happenstances detailed within these pages, but if those can't faze you, I particularly enjoyed Ma Jian's The Noodle Maker.Like a noodle maker, this author is saying, the system the Chinese people live under makes even, easily-digestible pieces of a staple food for the world to enjoy. I myself should probably eat a bit less noodle, I think my diet may have too much complex carbohydrate... OK, though, looking that back up to be sure reveals that the culprit here are the processed and refined sugars. So, if you want to read something of modern China which I didn't think was AS isolationist as a lot of the other Chinese things, this book was pretty worthwhile! (What I thought this book was not is what people say about Chinese stuff in general: it usually doesn't really take into account the rest of the world. Here, I didn't think it happened as much.)That comment could be extrapolated to the rest of us, couldn't it? Don't we all generally only think about our own interests? It's the realist international relations theory.So this is why I liked this book so much. You may, too!

  • Robert
    2018-11-23 21:40

    This was recommended to me by Rudina as my first post-grad school reading, and I'm glad she did. It is prickly and dark, and takes an absurdist yet clear-sighted look into China as it began to open up at the end of the 1970's to capitialism and the West. The stories are bleak and painful, as strange mutations of the entreprenurial spirit take root amongst those who had been so long pressed down and paralyzed by the crushing weight of the modern Chinese government. The insights into the human struggle are never didactic though, as there are clever moments of humor and an overall light touch to the writing style which keeps the text afloat despite all the suffering of its characters. And the very structure of the stories themselves are deftly linked together by a slippery narrator who seems to be swimming against the current and uncertain of his final destination. Though hardly a pleasurable subject matter, it is a pleasure to read, and I highly recommend it.

  • maulfield
    2018-11-16 22:52

    Mielőtt megírtam volna ezt, mások értékelését olvastam és nagyjából egyetértettem. Tényleg abszurd történetek ezek, bizonyára a nyitás utáni Kínából… és? Nekem nem sikerült felfedeznem a mély irodalmi értékeit sajnos. Lehet, hogy Kínában vagy Kínáról megírva ez egy számottevő teljesítmény, nem tudom megítélni. Nekem a két, a kis történeteket keretbefoglaló szereplő parttalan filozofálgatása üresnek hatott, a történetek pedig inkább egy középiskolás fantáziavilágára hasonlítottak, hogy milyen új kegyetlenségeket tud kitalálni. Átjött, hogy ebben a világban élni, főleg nőknek brutálisan kemény, a hangulata mégsem tudott lehengerelni, a világa mintha az obszcenitás kedvéért lenne olyan, amilyen. Kész vagyok elfogadni, hogy én nem tudtam megfelelően kontextualizálni a művet, ezzel együtt nekem nem adott szinte semmit se Kínából, se az emberiségből.A Partvonal 2005-ös kiadását olvastam, angolból Kállai Tibor fordította.

  • Jo
    2018-11-27 20:51

    I'm not sure whether to give this four or five stars. It's not a 'feel good' book, though there is a strong satirical humour woven throughout. Parts of it felt so deeply dark that I couldn't read more than a chapter in a sitting, but needed a break to digest all the feelings and questions it evoked! But that appeals to me! The book certainly brings you face to face with a raw kind of humanity, a damaged, deranged humanity struggling with the meaning of life and death. In so doing it exposes some of the contradictions and absurd surreality of Deng Xiaoping's new reform period in China. Many of the characters are strangely surreal, desperate and obsessive, clearly created by the monstrous dynamics of the decades and governance they are living through. I was grateful for the insight into this world Ma Jian managed to share in this way. It is not difficult to see why his work is banned in mainland China. I will definitely read more of him.