Adult Fiction Ha Jin The Crazed

ISBN 13: 9780434010530

The Crazed

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9780434010530: The Crazed

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.

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Review:

Set during the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989, The Crazed, a novel from Ha Jin, the award-winning author of the bestseller Waiting, unites a prominent Chinese university professor who suffers a brain injury and Jien Wen, a favorite student and future son-in-law who becomes his caretaker. As Professor Yang rants about his earlier life, his bizarre outbursts begin to strike Jien as containing some truth and, considering the uncertain times, he puzzles over their meaning. When Jien realizes that his additional responsibilities make sitting for his Ph.D. exams impossible, Meimei, his fiancée, promptly discards him, branding him as unloving, since passing the exams would have ensured they would both have attended graduate school in Beijing. Unmoored from the university, and unconnected to anything else, Jien joins the student movement and as a result becomes a police suspect.

Problematic to the plot is that Meimei is hardly warm to Jien; their relationship never appears to be anything but doomed. The professor's hallucinatory diatribes comprise the bulk of the novel, and initially it seems unlikely that a story will ever evolve from these ramblings. But with Yang indisposed, minor characters from the university conspire to devise means to further their personal agendas. A mystery results, as university and literature department personnel plot to have someone other than Jien marry Meimei. Jin's prose is succinct, but the most interesting parts of Jien's life occur, unfortunately, at the end of the book, leaving readers who fell for Waiting wanting more. --Michael Ferch

From the Back Cover:

praise for Ha Jin
“Jin has the kind of effortless command that most writers can only dream about.”
New York Times Magazine

“His writing is steeped in wit, rich metaphorical underpinnings and . . . endless and wonderful detail.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Ha Jin depicts the details of social etiquette, of food, of rural family relationships and the complex yet alarmingly primitive fabric of provincial life with that absorbed passion for minutiae characteristic of Dickens and Balzac.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“He could teach some native-born writers a few things about the beauty of spare prose and the power of a few well-chosen words.”
USA Today

“Ha Jin’s natural storytelling quietly captures the texture of daily life in a dual Chinese culture.”
Village Voice Literary Supplement

“For his revelations about ordinary life in the hinterlands of China . . . Ha Jin commands attention. For his mastery of the literary craft in English, he merits awe.”
San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle

“Ha Jin achieves a novella-like compression of narrative power and a Tolstoyan wide-angle empathy. . . . As a chronicler of the craziness of post–Cultural Revolution China, he’s an Ishmael, a singular eyewitness telling us of a dazzling tragedy.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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