Currently Reading: “The Dark Road” by Ma Jian

Howdy, friends.

Sometimes, you really can judge a book by its cover. I picked this up, randomly, at the library, just because I thought the image was so haunting:

darkroad

Turns out that was pretty telling for what’s inside the book, too. I read this in three days last week, and it was amazing. Awful and beautiful and sickening and amazing.

Here is the author’s web site.

And here is a description from Amazon:

Far away from the Chinese economic miracle, from the bright lights of Beijing and Shanghai, is a vast rural hinterland, where life goes on much as it has for generations, with one extraordinary difference: “normal” parents are permitted by the state to have only a single child. The Dark Road is the story of one such “normal” family—Meili, a young peasant woman; her husband, Kongzi, a village schoolteacher; and their daughter, Nannan.

Kongzi is, according to family myth, a direct lineal descendant of Confucius, and he is haunted by the imperative to carry on the family name by having a son. And so Meili becomes pregnant again without state permission, and when local family planning officials launch a new wave of crackdowns, the family makes the radical decision to leave its village and set out on a small, rickety houseboat down the Yangtze River. Theirs is a dark road, and tragedy awaits them, and horror, but also the fierce beauty born of courageous resistance to injustice and inhumanity.

The Dark Road is a haunting and indelible portrait of the tragedies befalling women and families at the hands of China’s one-child policy and of the human spirit’s capacity to endure even the most brutal cruelty. While Ma Jian wrote The Dark Road, he traveled through the rural backwaters of southwestern China to see how the state enforced the one-child policy far from the outside world’s prying eyes. He met local women who had been seized from their homes and forced to undergo abortions or sterilization in the policy’s name; and on the Yangtze River, he lived among fugitive couples who had gone on the run so they could have more children, that most fundamental of human rights.

Like all of Ma Jian’s novels, The Dark Road is also a celebration of the life force, of the often comically stubborn resilience of man’s most basic instincts.

I could not put this book down, even though parts of it were so horrible I didn’t want to continue. At the same time, I felt like I should — like I should know more about what these families were going through.

Some reviews for you:

New York Times

Washington Times

Boston Globe

The Guardian

And some other random links on China’s one-child policy. A news story on its economic impact. Another from the Wall Street Journal.

It was a fascinating/horrifying novel. I didn’t love the infant spirit parts, but the rest was amazing.

Happy reading.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Books. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s