Magazine September 2, 2013, Issue

Kafka in the Middle Kingdom

The Dark Road, by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew (Penguin, 384 pp., $26.95)

Early in Les Misérables, Victor Hugo describes an especially cruel kind of torture. A young woman, suspected of heresy, is stripped to the waist and tied to a post. As degrading as this sounds, it’s mere prologue: Her persecutors approach, carrying with them the baby she had just been nursing, who is hungry and crying. The officials demand that she recant her heresy before she can succor the baby, or else it will starve to death before her very eyes.

Partway through Chinese dissident writer Ma Jian’s latest novel, The Dark Road, one of his main characters, also a young woman

Randy BoyagodaMr. Boyagoda, a novelist, is a professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he is also the principal of St. Michael’s College.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

How Nature Works

Our contemporary debates about evolution are basically an extension of the argument Christians have been having with one another since the Middle Ages, about how much autonomy God granted to ...
Politics & Policy

The Myth Maker

Lawrence of Arabia enjoys a prominent place in the mysterious and self-perpetuating realm of myth. This remarkable achievement has always depended on the impression he left of himself as both ...


Politics & Policy


A Dissent on Dissenting I write in response to Arthur Herman’s article, “Sensitive SEALs,” in the August 5 National Review. I am a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer, and I agree ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Detroit is dead and al-Qaeda is alive. ‐ A group of conservative senators, most prominently including Ted Cruz, hopes to defund Obamacare by forcing a government-shutdown fight over a so-called ...

Keep Off the Grass

A rodeo clown in Missouri has been banned from rodeo-clowning for the rest of his life because he wore an Obama mask and subjected our president to ridicule. Tough break; ...
Politics & Policy


SPRING My enemy had hatched her young, Made real the heady boasts she’d sung, And when I saw the cherished thing, I vowed it would not fly or sing. My talons tightened in its fluff. Their ...
Happy Warrior

The Blasphemy Police

In 2010, the bestselling atheist Richard Dawkins, in the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post, called the pope “a leering old villain in a frock” perfectly suited to “the ...


The Latest