Book Review: The Dark Road

The Dark Road

The Dark Road, by Ma Jian is a novel about Kongzi, Meili, and their daughter Nannan. Konzi is a direct relation to of Confucius and a school teacher. Things are well for the family until Meili becomes pregnant with a second child. The one child family policy is in full effect and the family does not have state permission to have a second child. The Family Planning Commission enforcers are ruthless. Reminders f the one child policy are all around including a sign “ Severe the fallopian tubes of poverty; insert the IUDs of prosperity.”


There are several themes in the book most notably the Confucian idea of a male heir played out by Kongzi. He also shows the primitive side of the male sex. The dual role of independent and free thinking woman rising in China and a mother who values motherhood and the spirit of her unborn child. Nannan, the daughter, whose name sounds like a boys name deals with the confusion of her sex and her role in society.


Perhaps the most disturbing role is played by the government and its minions. The brutality of the Family Planning Commission’s forced abortions to out right murder and forced serializations and IUD insertions are described in shocking detail. To make matters worse for all of the above the women are expect to pay for the services. Corruption and fraud exist in every aspect life including migrant permits, “tolls”, and fines. The same corruption allows for environmental devastation, work camps, and brothels.


What ever glimmer of hope we in the West see in China are totally and thoroughly destroyed by this book. The Dark Road is very well written and an extremely compelling read. With that being said it is also extremely disturbing. Jian does little to candy coat his views and at the same time the read feels he is not embellishing them either, yet the message is extremely powerful.

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