London-based author Ma Jian is not tarred by the same brush that paints mainland Chinese authors, such as the Nobel laureate Mo Yan, as compromised self-censors, afraid to call out the regime on its abuses of power. Rather, he is their strongest accuser. ‘Official Chinese writers’ are ‘locked in a beautiful cage’, he has said, and have abandoned what he sees as a responsibility of literature in an unfree country to tackle sensitive political and social topics.
Ma, however, won’t write about anything else. His first novella, Stick Out Your Tongue, was set in Tibet and resulted in his future work being banned in China on grounds of obscenity. His 2009 novel Beijing Coma, about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, got him banned from travelling to his