The Dark Road

Ma Jian

The Dark Road

Meili, a young peasant woman born in the remote heart of China, is married to Kongzi, a village school teacher, and a distant descendant of Confucius. They have a daughter, but desperate for a son to carry on his illustrious family line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant again without waiting for official permission. When family planning officers storm the village to arrest violators of the population control policy, mother, father and daughter escape to the Yangtze River and begin a fugitive life. For years they drift south through the poisoned waterways and ruined landscapes of China, picking up work as they go along, scavenging for necessities and flying from police detection. As Meili's body continues to be invaded by her husband and assaulted by the state, she fights to regain control of her fate and that of her unborn child. 3.5 out of 5 based on 3 reviews
The Dark Road

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 368
RRP
Date of Publication April 2013
ISBN 978-0701187538
Publisher Chatto & Windus
 

Meili, a young peasant woman born in the remote heart of China, is married to Kongzi, a village school teacher, and a distant descendant of Confucius. They have a daughter, but desperate for a son to carry on his illustrious family line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant again without waiting for official permission. When family planning officers storm the village to arrest violators of the population control policy, mother, father and daughter escape to the Yangtze River and begin a fugitive life. For years they drift south through the poisoned waterways and ruined landscapes of China, picking up work as they go along, scavenging for necessities and flying from police detection. As Meili's body continues to be invaded by her husband and assaulted by the state, she fights to regain control of her fate and that of her unborn child.

Reviews

The Daily Telegraph

Stephen Abell

The Dark Road is painfully honest about the state-sponsored subjugation of women: “Men control our vaginas; the state controls our wombs.” Meili sees “on the wet and creased walls the marks left by male intrusions”, her inner organs no more than a palimpsest of the abuse inflicted upon her. This includes – in a scene that will trouble me for a long time – the death of her son, Happiness, snatched from her body before full term and killed.

25/04/2013

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The Guardian

Tash Aw

Much of the wry yet affectionate humour that characterised the earlier novels, even one as obviously political as Beijing Coma, is absent here, replaced by an unrelentingly bleak atmosphere that is rendered all the more stark by Flora Drew's precise yet agile translation. The novel opens with several scenes of shocking violence, in which the women of Meili's village are subjected to horrific cruelty by family planning officers. ... These opening passages could be intended to prepare the reader for what lies ahead, for at virtually every turn, women are brutalised in one way or another as bloody foetuses are carried around in plastic bags or boiled in Cantonese restaurants to make male-tonic soups.

02/05/2013

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The Independent

James Urquhart

Ma chews over some meaty issues, from prejudicial class laws to women's lack of autonomy over their own bodies, but the narrative's exhausting flow of grievous misfortune eventually leads to a deadening of the emotional palette. Child trafficking, rape, murder, abduction, forced labour, even infant cannibalism – the ordeals gradually glaze into a disengaged sense of calamity with only a minimal sense of grief.

20/04/2013

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