May 1989. Tens of thousands of students are camped out in Beijing s Tiananmen Square. But what started as a united protest at the slow pace of their government s political reform has begun to lose direction- people from all over China are coming to join the demonstration, but the students at its heart are confused by the influence they suddenly wield, and riven by petty in-fighting. One of them, Dai Wei, argues with about everything from democracy to the distribution of food to protestors, little knowing that, on 4 June, a soldier will shoot a bullet into his head, sending him into a deep coma. As Dai Wei lies immobile in his mother s Beijing flat- his body has become his prison, but his memories offer a means of escape. We watch him fall in love, drop out of school, arrive at university and become increasingly politicized. From his coma, Dai Wei can t see or move but he can hear what s happening in the world beyond- his mother s struggle to keep him alive; the government s attempt to suppress all memory of the Tiananmen massacre; his friends involvement in China s frenetic capitalism. As the almost minute-by-minute chronicling of the lead-up to his shooting becomes ever more
Ma Jian was born in Qingdao, China in 1953. He worked as a watch-mender and a painter of propaganda boards and was assigned a job as a photojournalist for a state-run magazine. At the age of thirty, Ma Jian left work and travelled for three years across China, a journey he later described in his book Red Dust, winner of the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award 2002. He left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987 but continued to travel to China, notably to support 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.