National Book Award-winner Ha Jin's arresting debut novel , In the Pond, is a darkly funny portrait of an amateur calligrapher who wields his delicate artist's brush as a weapon against the powerful party bureaucrats who rule his provincial Chinese town.
Shao Bin is a downtrodden worker at the Harvest Fertilizer Plant by day and an aspiring artist by night. Passed over on the list to receive a decent apartment for his young family, while those in favor with the party's leaders are selected ahead of him, Shao Bin chafes at his powerlessness. When he attempts to expose his corrupt superiors by circulating satirical cartoons, he provokes an escalating series of merciless counterattacks that send ripples beyond his small community. Artfully crafted and suffused with earthy wit, In the Pond is a moving tale about humble lives caught up in larger social forces.
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In the Pond is a slim little book about some very big issues: power, vanity, art, injustice, and politics. Where Tom Wolfe would find the makings for a doorstop, however, debut novelist Ha Jin has created a rough-cut comic gem. Set in Communist China, the book takes as its hero a small, unprepossessing man named Shao Bin, a maintenance employee at the Harvest Fertilizer Plant and also a self-taught artist. Together with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, Bin inhabits a tiny 12-by-20-foot room. Bin is desperate to move into the newly built workers' compound, and he places his name on the waiting list with high hopes. But when the plant managers pass him over, despite the fact that he's been working there for years, Bin finally cracks. "In brief, the true scholar's brush must encourage good and warn against evil," he reads in The Essence of Ancient Chinese Thought, and inspired, he publishes a satirical cartoon protesting official corruption. The consequences of this simple act snowball, and in self-defense, Bin finds himself aiming his attacks ever higher up the bureaucratic ladder. This is a book that works on multiple levels: as character study, as political allegory, as sly bureaucratic satire, even, at times, as the broadest kind of slapstick. (One memorable scene involves Bin biting his superior on the butt.) Bin himself is half persecuted artist, half self-righteous boor; readers both sympathize with him and wonder along with one of his coworkers, "Why do you enjoy fighting so much?" Even his putative victory is left in doubt. As the book ends, Shao Bin has become perhaps a bigger fish, but there's no doubt about it; he's in the very same small pond where he started. --Mary ParkAbout the Author:
Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of the internationally bestselling novel Waiting, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Award, and War Trash, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize; the story collections The Bridegroom, which won the Asian American Literary Award, Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award; the novels The Crazed and In the Pond; and three books of poetry. His latest novel, A Free Life is his first novel set in the United States. He lives in the Boston area and is a professor of English at Boston University.
War Trash, The Crazed, The Bridegroom, Waiting, In the Pond, and Ocean of Words are available in paperback from Vintage Books.
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Book Description Vintage, 2000. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "Ravishing . . . vividly described." The Village Voice,/i> "Though art and politics figure in the action,In the Pondis first and foremost a comedy-naughty, lusty, raucously entertaining. Ha Jin's language echoes working-class Chinese at its rough, bawdy best." --The New York Times Book Review "Fascinating . . . spare and taut. . . . A fable about morality and power." --Chicago Tribune. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0375709118
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