Through the Gates of a Chinese Hell

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore reviews Ma Jian’s “The Dark Road” in WSJ

In 2009, the Chinese author Ma Jian was traveling through China’s poverty-stricken countryside when he saw the body of a newborn girl floating bloated and abandoned down a river. The corpse inspired his new novel “The Dark Road.”

“I imagined the spirit of this murdered child looking down at us and felt as though we were all somehow implicated in the crime. Everyone’s hands were dirtied by such a death,” says Mr. Ma. He is speaking via his British wife and translator, Flora Drew, in a crowded London bar near where the couple lives.

The dead baby girl was a victim of China’s brutal one-child policy, which came into effect in 1979, as well as some parents’ preference for boys. In his new novel, Mr. Ma wanted to give China’s millions of missing children, “a voice that has been denied to them.”

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