The Noodle Maker A Novel

Ma Jian; Translated by Flora Drew




Trade Paperback

192 Pages


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Two men, one a writer of political propaganda, the other a professional blood donor, meet for dinner each week. Over the course of one drunken evening, the writer recounts the stories he would create, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln from an art school, opens a private crematorium, and is overwhelmed by demand; a heartbroken actress performs a public suicide by stepping into the jaws of a wild tiger, watched nonchalantly by her ex-lover; an illegal migrant scrapes together a living by writing love letters for the illiterate but can't help falling in love himself. Extraordinary characters inspire the writer, their lives pulled and pummeled by fate and politics as if they were balls of dough in the hands of an all-powerful noodle maker.

This satirical novel about the absurdities and cruelties of life in a post-Tiananmen China allows readers a humorous yet profound glimpse of individuals struggling to survive under a system that dictates their every move.


Praise for The Noodle Maker

"[A] wry, biting collection."—Anderson Tepper, The New York Times Book Review

"Jian is a superb comedian . . . This antic nihilist is hard to beat."—Los Angeles Times

"[A] sharp, black comic novel . . . [An] excellent novel, and one China with have to answer for itself."—Bryan Walsh, Bookforum

"Fans of the absurdity and dark humor of Milan Kundera's portraits of life behind the Iron Curtain will appreciate these same elements in Ma Jian's work."—Alane Salierno Mason, The Baltimore Sun

"One of the most important and courageous voices in Chinese literature."—Gao Xingjian, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature

"Playful and wonderfully dark, The Noodle Maker confirms Ma Jian as a Chinese Kundera. The funniest book I've read in a long time."—Philip Marsden, author of The Bronski House

"[Ma Jian's] writing shines a light that is both humane and angry into some of the dustiest corners of a closed and often forgotten society."—Stephanie Merritt, The Observer (London)

"The Noodle Maker is hugely entertaining and deeply serious. It's something to celebrate."—Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Ma Jian is the author of Red Dust, which won the Thomas Cook Prize in the UK. His most recent novel is Stick Out Your Tongue (FSG). He now lives in England.
Read the full excerpt


  • Ma Jian; Translated by Flora Drew

  • Ma Jian left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987, shortly before his books were banned in China. He now lives in London. His acclaimed book Red Dust won the 2002 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award.
  • Ma Jian Copyright Flora Drew