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World Literature Weekend: Ma Jian with Flora Drew

Where: BP Room, British Museum, London, UK

Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma, winner of the T. R. Fyvel Index on Censorship Award and shortlisted for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, is a seminal novel about the Tiananmen Square protests. Gao Xingjian, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has called Ma’s ‘one of the most important and courageous voices in Chinese literature’. Having moved to Hong Kong in 1987, he continued to travel back to China to support the pro-democracy activists, but his short collection about Tibet, Stick Out Your Tongue, prompted the Chinese government to ban his work and send him into exile. His wife, Flora Drew, whose English translations of his books have been highly praised, lives with him and their children in London.

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 30, 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 hand-over of Hong Kong he moved to Germany and then London, where he now lives.

Flora Drew is the translator of Beijing Coma and studied Chinese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She has worked in television and film and has translated Ma Jian’s Red Dust, The Noodle Maker and Stick Out Your Tongue.

Part of the London Review Bookshop’s World Literature Weekend

Ticket prices include postage. Concessionary rates available for LRB subscribers, Friends of the British Museum, students and OAPs – please call +44 (0)20 7209 1141

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