The Dark Road by Ma Jian

85%

6 Critic Reviews

The Dark Road is harsh, and harshly alive, as are the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Thomas Bernhard, Ralph Ellison, and Audre Lorde: they are works of lament.
-Globe and Mail

Synopsis

From one of world literature’s most courageous voices, a novel about the human cost of China’s one-child policy through the lens of one rural family on the run from its reach

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.
 

About Ma Jian

See more books from this Author
MA JIAN was born in Qingdao, China, in 1953. He worked as a watch-mender's apprentice, a painter of propaganda boards, and a photojournalist. In 1987 he wrote Stick Out Your Tongue, a collection of short stories that prompted the Chinese government to ban his future work. Ma Jian left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987 as a dissident, but he continued to travel to China and supported the pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989. After the handover of Hong Kong, he moved to Germany and then London, where he now lives with his partner and translator, FLORA DREW. He is the author of Red Dust, a travel memoir, and the critically acclaimed novels The Noodle Maker and Beijing Coma.
 
Published June 13, 2013 by Penguin Books. 385 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Fiction
Bookmark Counts:
1
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Dark Road
All: 6 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Helen T. Verongos on Jun 11 2013

In “The Dark Road,” as in “Beijing Coma,” Mr. Ma is adept at jolting our senses, transporting us, with a few words about a pain, a taste or an odor, to those parts of China...

Read Full Review of The Dark Road | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Alexander Larman on Jun 29 2014

Jian...depicts a terrifyingly random world in which the "one family, one child" policy of population engineering is stuck to with such rigid adherence that mothers-to-be can be seized...and forcibly aborted....However, if you can handle Jian's unsentimental account of oppression, a warmer and more human tale begins to unfold,

Read Full Review of The Dark Road | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Tash Aw on May 02 2013

All of Ma's skill and playfulness are on display as the novel builds to a climax in which Meili is forced to question her very right to exist in this fragile, ever-changing new world.

Read Full Review of The Dark Road | See more reviews from Guardian

Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Steven Mosher on Jun 14 2013

...he took a long trip through the countryside in an effort to understand the lives of ordinary people. The fruits of that journey are in “The Dark Road,” which is as powerful a China novel as any I’ve read.

Read Full Review of The Dark Road | See more reviews from Washington Times

Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by Madeleine Thien on May 24 2013

The Dark Road is harsh, and harshly alive, as are the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Thomas Bernhard, Ralph Ellison, and Audre Lorde: they are works of lament.

Read Full Review of The Dark Road | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Jason Beerman on Jun 21 2013

With The Dark Road, Ma Jian steers the spotlight away from China’s prosperous coastal...The Dark Road is a rare glimpse into the gruesome engine of so-called progress, told in a voice that is at once empathetic and outraged.

Read Full Review of The Dark Road | See more reviews from Toronto Star

Reader Rating for The Dark Road
75%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 79 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Karen Russo

Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

×