Blogging the Bookshelf

Blogging my bookshelf – one book at a time

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"The Crazed", Ha Jin

May 30th, 2009 · No Comments · Asian, China, Chinese, Literature

thecrazedhajinSynopsis: Set against the backdrop of the Tianamen Square uprising, a Chinese literature professor suffers a stroke and relives his suffering in the Cultural Revolution through his dementia. His star pupil and future son in law is tasked with caring for him but is disturbed at what he learns from the old man’s ravings.

My Take: Before this book I hadn’t been sure about what to make of Ha Jin. His most acclaimed book ‘Waiting’ is a justified classic (best described by a reviewer as taking Romeo and Juliet, extending the courtship over 20 years and setting it in North Western China – stay tuned for a much longer post on this in future). But I was less impressed with his collection of loosely themed short stories in “The Bridgegroom“. It was interesting, but nothing special. I couldn’t work out whether he was a great writer or whether he just struck it lucky with one great story.

After reading The Crazed though I’m willing to give him his dues as a great writer. While he has a fairly bare style and a very dark outlook, Ha Jin is able to craft stories with remarkably strong emotional substance. As an ex-pat Chinese author he’s got a rich palette of emotional subject matter to draw on, but he’s careful not to overplay the emotional triggers.


“It’s personal interests, that motivate the individual and therefore generate the dynamics of history.”

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