The place is the chilly border between Russia and China. The time is the early 1970s when the two giants were poised on the brink of war. And the characters in this thrilling collection of stories are Chinese soldiers who must constantly scrutinize the enemy even as they themselves are watched for signs of the fatal disease of bourgeois liberalism.
In , the Chinese writer Ha Jin explores the predicament of these simple, barely literate men with breathtaking concision and humanity. From amorous telegraphers to a pugnacious militiaman, from an inscrutable Russian prisoner to an effeminate but enthusiastic recruit, Ha Jin's characters possess a depth and liveliness that suggest Isaac Babel's Cossacks and Tim O'Brien's GIs. is a triumphant volume, poignant, hilarious, and harrowing.
"A compelling collection of stories, powerful in their unity of theme and rich in their diversity of styles."-New York Times Book Review
"Extraordinary…[These stories are shot through with wit and offer glimpses of human motivation that defy retelling…Read them all."-Boston Globe
"An exceptional new talent, capable of wringing rich surprises out of austere materials."-Portland Oregonian
From the remarkable Ha Jin, winner of the National Book Award for his celebrated novel , a collection of comical and deeply moving tales of contemporary China that are as warm and human as they are surprising, disturbing, and delightful.
In the title story, the head of security at a factory is shocked, first when the hansomest worker on the floor proposes marriage to his homely adopted daughter, and again when his new son-in-law is arrested for the "crime" of homosexuality. In "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," the workers at an American-style fast food franchise receive a hilarious crash course in marketing, deep frying, and that frustrating capitalist dictum, "the customer is always right."Ha Jin has triumphed again with his unforgettable storytelling in .
Since the appearance of his first book of stories in English, Ha Jin has won the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and garnered comparisons to Dickens, Balzac, and Isaac Babel. "Like Babel," wrote Francine Prose in The "New York Times Book Review," "Ha Jin observes everything… yet he tells the reader only-and precisely-as much as is needed to make his deceptively simple fiction resonate on many levels."
In his luminous new novel, the author of "Waiting" deepens his portrait of contemporary Chinese society while exploring the perennial conflicts between convention and individualism, integrity and pragmatism, loyalty and betrayal. Professor Yang, a respected teacher of literature at a provincial university, has had a stroke, and his student Jian Wan-who is also engaged to Yang's daughter-has been assigned to care for him. What at first seems a simple if burdensome duty becomes treacherous when the professor begins to rave: pleading with invisible tormentors, denouncing his family, his colleagues, and a system in which a scholar is "just a piece of meat on a cutting board."
Are these just manifestations of illness, or is Yang spewing up the truth? And can the dutiful Jian avoid being irretrievably compromised? For in a China convulsed by the Tiananmen uprising, those who hear the truth are as much at risk as those who speak it. At once nuanced and fierce, earthy and humane, "The Crazed" is further evidence of Ha Jin's prodigious narrative gifts.
The twelve stories in take place during China's Cultural Revolution. Ha Jin, who was raised in China and emigrated to the United States after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, writes about loss and moral deterioration with the keen sense of a survivor. His stories examine life in the bleak rural town of Dismount Fort, where the men and women are full of passion and certainty but blinded by their limited vision as they grapple with honor and shame, manhood and death, infidelity and repression.
In "A Man-to-Be," a militiaman engaged to be married participates in a gang rape, but finds himself impotent when he looks into the eyes of the victim. His fiancee's family breaks off the engagement, not because of the rape, but because they doubt his virility. In "Winds and Clouds over a Funeral," a Communist leader disobeys his mother's last wish for burial to keep his good standing in the party, but his enemies bring him down for being a bad son. "In Broad Daylight" is the story of the public humiliation of a woman accused of being a whore. Her dignified defiance is gradually stripped away as she is dragged through the streets, cursed and spat upon by strangers and family alike.
In , privacy is nonexistent and paranoia rules as neighbor turns against neighbor, husband turns against wife, state turns against individual, history turns against humanity. These stories display the earnestness and grandeur of human folly, and in a larger sense, form a moral history of a time and a place.
From the award-winning author of Waiting: a spare, haunting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries — China and the United States — and two families as it explores the complicated terrain of love and honor.
When Lilian Shang, born and raised in America, discovers her father’s diary after the death of her parents, she is shocked by the secrets it contains. She knew that her father, Gary, convicted decades ago of being a mole in the CIA, was the most important Chinese spy ever caught. But his diary — an astonishing chronicle of his journey from 1949 Shanghai to Okinawa to Langley, Virginia — reveals the pain and longing that his double life entailed. The trail leads Lilian to China, to her father’s long-abandoned other family, whose existence she and her Irish American mother never suspected. As Lilian begins to fathom her father’s dilemma — torn between loyalty to his motherland and the love he came to feel for his adopted country — she sees how his sense of duty distorted his life. But as she starts to understand that Gary, too, had been betrayed, she finds that it is up to her to prevent his tragedy from damaging yet another generation of her family.
The award-winning author of and returns to his homeland in a searing new novel that unfurls during one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century: the Rape of Nanjing.
In 1937, with the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin — an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women’s College — decides to remain at the school, convinced that her American citizenship will help her safeguard the welfare of the Chinese men and women who work there. She is painfully mistaken. In the aftermath of the invasion, the school becomes a refugee camp for more than ten thousand homeless women and children, and Vautrin must struggle, day after day, to intercede on behalf of the hapless victims. Even when order and civility are eventually restored, Vautrin remains deeply embattled, and she is haunted by the lives she could not save.
With extraordinarily evocative precision, Ha Jin re-creates the terror, the harrowing deprivations, and the menace of unexpected violence that defined life in Nanjing during the occupation. In Minnie Vautrin he has given us an indelible portrait of a woman whose convictions and bravery prove, in the end, to be no match for the maelstrom of history.
At once epic and intimate, is historical fiction at its most resonant.
In his first book of stories since was published in 2000 ("Finely wrought. . Every story here is cut like a stone." — ), National Book Award — winning Ha Jin gives us a collection that delves into the experience of Chinese immigrants in America.
With the same profound attention to detail that is a hallmark of his previous acclaimed works of fiction, Ha Jin depicts here the full spectrum of immigrant life and the daily struggles — some minute, some grand — faced by these intriguing individuals.
A lonely composer takes comfort in the antics of his girlfriend's parakeet; young children decide to change their names so that they might sound more "American," unaware of how deeply this will hurt their grandparents; a Chinese professor of English attempts to defect with the help of a reluctant former student. All of Ha Jin's characters struggle in situations that stir within them a desire to remain attached to be loyal to their homeland and its traditions as they explore and avail themselves of the freedom that life in a new country offers.
In these stark, deeply moving, acutely insightful, and often strikingly humorous stories, we are reminded once again of the storytelling prowess of this superb writer.
The demands of human longing contend with the weight of centuries of custom in acclaimed author Ha Jin's , a novel of unexpected richness and universal resonance. Every summer Lin Kong, a doctor in the Chinese Army, returns to his village to end his loveless marriage with the humble and touchingly loyal Shuyu. But each time Lin must return to the city to tell Manna Wu, the educated, modern nurse he loves, that they will have to postpone their engagement once again. Caught between conflicting claims of these two utterly different women and trapped by a culture in which adultery can ruin lives and careers, Lin has been waiting for eighteen years. This year, he promises, will be different.
From Publishers Weekly
Ha Jin, who emigrated from China in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square, had only been writing in English for 12 years when he won the National Book Award for Waiting in 1999. His latest novel sheds light on an émigré writer's woodshedding period. It follows the fortunes of Nan Wu, who drops out of a U.S. grad school after the repression of the democracy movement in China, hoping to find his voice as a poet while supporting his wife, Pingping, and son, Taotao. After several years of spartan living, Nan and Pingping save enough to buy a Chinese restaurant in suburban Atlanta, setting up double tensions: between Nan's literary hopes and his career, and between Nan and Pingping, who, at the novel's opening, are staying together for the sake of their young boy. While Pingping grows more independent, Nan -amid the dulling minutiae of running a restaurant and worries about mortgage payments, insurance and schooling-slowly snuffs the torch he carries for his first love. That Nan at one point reads Dr. Zhivago isn't coincidental: while Ha Jin's novel lacks Zhivago's epic grandeur, his biggest feat may be making the reader wonder whether the trivialities of American life are not, in some ways, as strange and barbaric as the upheavals of revolution.
From the award-winning author of Waiting, a new novel about a family's struggle for the American Dream.
Meet the Wu family-father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao. They are arranging to fully sever ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square, and to begin a new, free life in the United States. At first, their future seems well-assured. But after the fallout from Tiananmen, Nan 's disillusionment turns him toward his first love, poetry. Leaving his studies, he takes on a variety of menial jobs as Pingping works for a wealthy widow as a cook and housekeeper. As Pingping and Taotao slowly adjust to American life, Nan still feels a strange attachment to his homeland, though he violently disagrees with Communist policy. But severing all ties-including his love for a woman who rejected him in his youth-proves to be more difficult than he could have ever imagined.
From Publishers Weekly
Jin (Waiting; The Crazed; etc.) applies his steady gaze and stripped-bare storytelling to the violence and horrifying political uncertainty of the Korean War in this brave, complex and politically timely work, the story of a reluctant soldier trying to survive a POW camp and reunite with his family. Armed with reams of research, the National Book Award winner aims to give readers a tale that is as much historical record as examination of personal struggle. After his division is decimated by superior American forces, Chinese "volunteer" Yu Yuan, an English-speaking clerical officer with a largely pragmatic loyalty to the Communists, rejects revolutionary martyrdom and submits to capture. In the POW camp, his ability to communicate with the Americans thrusts him to the center of a disturbingly bloody power struggle between two factions of Chinese prisoners: the pro-Nationalists, led in part by the sadistic Liu Tai-an, who publicly guts and dissects one of his enemies; and the pro-Communists, commanded by the coldly manipulative Pei Shan, who wants to use Yu to save his own political skin. An unofficial fighter in a foreign war, shameful in the eyes of his own government for his failure to die, Yu can only stand and watch as his dreams of seeing his mother and fiancée again are eviscerated in what increasingly looks like a meaningless conflict. The parallels with America 's current war on terrorism are obvious, but Jin, himself an ex-soldier, is not trying to make a political statement. His gaze is unfiltered, camera-like, and the images he records are all the more powerful for their simple honesty. It is one of the enduring frustrations of Jin's work that powerful passages of description are interspersed with somewhat wooden dialogue, but the force of this story, painted with starkly melancholy longing, pulls the reader inexorably along.
From The New Yorker
Ha Jin's new novel is the fictional memoir of a Chinese People's Volunteer, dispatched by his government to fight for the Communist cause in the Korean War. Yu Yuan describes his ordeal after capture, when P.O.W.s in the prison camp have to make a wrenching choice: return to the mainland as disgraced captives, or leave their families and begin new lives in Taiwan. The subject is fascinating, but in execution the novel often seems burdened by voluminous research, and it strains dutifully to illustrate political truisms. In a prologue, Yuan claims to be telling his story in English because it is "the only gift a poor man like me can bequeath his American grandchildren." Ha Jin accurately reproduces the voice of a non-native speaker, but the labored prose is disappointing from an author whose previous work – "Waiting" and " Ocean of Words " – is notable for its vividness and its emotional precision.