Stick out your tongue by Ma Jian

Stick out your tongue by Ma Jian

Chinese fiction

Translator – Flora drew

I m so pleased I picked this up at the library long have I struggled to get a foot in on chinese fiction ,I ve a few books on my shelf but have read first few pages of them and not be gripped so have been on the look out for something short to get my juices following for Chinese books , but I saw this Ma Jian’s  debut collection published in 1987 and in English in 2006  which is only 89 pages long and thought I ll read this in an evening . I didread it in a evening , but also found a chinese writer I love, as well ,and was pleased to be told on twitter when I said I d read it , he has other books out already .well stick your tongue out is a collection of five short stories ,as normal I ll mention only one of these thus leaving the others for you to find for your self .I ve chosen The smile of lake Drolmula  we meet Sonam ,he is a Tibetan nomad  that has left his nomadic family to live in the city ,but is returning to find his family  , we meet him as he stops by the beautiful lake Dromula ,as he does he images how the people in his family have grown in his time away from them ,also little bits on what he remembers his family being  like a certain apron ,this piece is full of the natural beauty but also the hard life of a nomad at the same time ,also how familes can easily drift apart ,as he progresses he finds his family hard to track down  .

The black horse must have delivered my sack to the tent by now ,he thought to himself .In a daze ,he found himself walking back to his family’s tent .The sheepdog Pemu ran up to him and rubbed its head against the zip of his trousers .

Does he make it or is it just imagined ?

This collection was longlisted for the independent foreign fiction long list in 2007 .The stories all set in Tibet portray a place of wide open spaces and beauty, but also people struggling to survived under communism and the harshness of the landscape  ,but also the characters in the stories seem to be loners and outsiders almost looking for answers at times son and a writer among them . Ma Jian lives in exile in London with his partner Flora Drew the translator of the book  ,his books are banned in China due to their content .Ma Jian is also banned from china since this year .If like me you want a door into Chinese fiction I remember someone on the book show from ABc saying that Chinese fiction would be one the rising star of the 21st century literature . This may be the book for you ,the translation is wonderful from the Han original as you would expect as she is his partner .

Source library

Have you a favourite chinese book ?

Have you read Ma Jian ?

21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. JoV
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 20:06:33

    I read Red Dust before and I have always wanted to read Beijing Coma. This year see a reduction in reading Chinese-lit but for past years I read quite a few. my favourite I could think of now is : A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo and anything that is written by Xiaolu Guo. YiYun Li’s short stories collection ” A thousand years of prayers” are good as well!


  2. Gavin
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 20:22:43

    I have not read Ma Jian but you have me intrigued. My library has several books by him. I will start with this one.


  3. Tony
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 00:18:59

    I read ‘Beijing Coma’ earlier this year, and while it was far from perfect (perhaps a little long), it was an absorbing glimpse behind the Bamboo Curtain. I’d love to read this one at some point too 🙂


  4. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 12:35:11

    Thanks Stu for this introductory ‘text’ to Chinese literature. I would keep an eye for this.


  5. WordsAndPeace
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 21:25:25

    I enjoyed a lot Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie. He is Chinese, but lives now in France and writes in French, so not sure if you think that counts! Emma @ Words And Peace


  6. Max Cairnduff
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 13:43:42

    I’ve read his Red Dust, which I reviewed here: He’s a good writer, but not flawless. This sounds interesting and one I may well try.

    A favourite Chinese novel? Tough question. Right now it’s probably Six Records of a Floating Life (, but that will probably change if you ask again in a while.


  7. Sarah
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 23:08:16

    I have read Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem and it left me wanting to read more Chinese fiction, but it’s difficult to know what there is. Thanks for this, Stu. I can see parallels with Wolf Totem in what you describe, which can only be a good thing.


  8. kimbofo
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:56:17

    I read Beijing Coma last year – it was one of my top reads for 2010.

    I read Red Dust earlier this year, but found it wearisome in places.

    I do think he has a funny attitude to women, though.


  9. Vishy
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 05:25:40

    Nice review, Stu! I read Ma Jian’s ‘Red Dust’ some years back and I loved it. If you like travelogues set in China of the early 1980s, you will like it. Strangely, I bought ‘Red Dust’ in China when I lived there 🙂 I guess the Chinese government at that time had decided that it was no longer required to keep that book banned. But I suspect that Ma Jian’s ‘Beijing Coma’ is still banned in China.

    On Chinese books, if you like books set in China written by outsiders, you might like ‘River Town’ by Peter Hessler. It is one of the most beautiful memoirs I have read with a Chinese backdrop. You might also like ‘Nanjing 1937 : A Love Story’ by Ye Zhaoyan (a novel set during the Nanjing massacre), ‘Death of a Red Heroine’ by Qiu Xiaolong (a murder mystery set in modern day Shanghai), ‘Shanghai’ by Christopher New (novel set in Shanghai at the beginning of the 20th century – one of my favourites), ‘Fortress Besieged’ by Qian Zhongshu (it is considered one of the masterpieces of 20th century Chinese literature).


  10. Max Cairnduff
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:45:23

    Death of a Red Heroine is certainly interesting. For outsider books my big tip would be the Van Gulik Judge Dee novels which are absolutely marvellous.


  11. Kinna
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 19:45:12

    I loved Jian’s The Noodle Maker and have heard really good things about Beijing Coma. I think I should more of his stuff, like this one. I also like the works of Su Tong.


  12. Trackback: The dark road by Ma Jian | Winstonsdad's Blog

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September 2011


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