Keep squeezing

Sam Sacks

  • The Dark Road by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew
    Chatto, 360 pp, £16.99, April 2013, ISBN 978 0 7011 8753 8

Ma Jian’s new novel, The Dark Road, also serves as an indictment of the Chinese government and the crimes it has committed in the name of modernisation. Its principal target is the one-child policy, imposed in 1978 and still officially in effect, which has led to mass campaigns of forced sterilisation and abortion, as well as infanticide and child trafficking. But Ma also widens his case to confront the enormous amounts of electronic waste pollution; the destruction wreaked by the Three Gorges Dam project; the urban sex trade in which thousands of women from the peasantry have become indentured; and even, in passing, the government’s attempted cover-up of the Sars epidemic. Each of these topics on its own would be enough to alert China’s censors. But Ma has the liberty to write about them because his books have been banned in China since the publication of his first novel, Stick Out Your Tongue, in 1987.

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