Reviews: ‘Decoded’, by Mai Jia

DecodedMai Jia (the pen name of Jiang Benhu) is one of China’s most popular authors, but he is still practically unknown in the west; this, his bestselling 2002 debut Decoded, is the first of his novels to be translated into English. It’s tempting to think of him as China’s answer to John le Carré. Having worked professionally alongside spies and codebreakers in his country’s secret services, Mai now channels those experiences into fiction that combines literary sophistication with commercial appeal. And like le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyDecoded has also been adapted for television and film. (FT)

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According to the American publisher of the writer who goes by the pen name Mai Jia, Mai is the “most popular author in the world you’ve never heard of.” (Pen names are not unusual for Chinese writers; his real name is Jiang Benhu.) An espionage novelist who navigates the top-secret world of cryptography, Mai has been hailed as China’s Dan Brown. In the words of Mai himself, he is a pessimist whose abiding faith in literature gives him the power to, as he half-jokes, “converse with the devil.” Farrar, Straus and Giroux has recently released the translation of his 2002 bestseller, Decoded, whose success in China has earned him a hit TV series and countless Chinese fans. (The New Republic)

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