Title: In the Pond
Publisher: Steerforth Press, South Royalton, VT, U.S.A.
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: First Edition.
Fine unread copy protected by Archival Brodart Cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000156
Synopsis: Fiction. Asian Studies. Winner of the Hemingway/PEN Award for first fiction for his story collection OCEAN OF WORDS, and of the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction for UNDER THE RED FLAG, Ha Jin is a writer of stark power, simple beauty and poignant irony. IN THE POND is a close, unsentimental depiction of life in a small faCtory town; the manuevering, posturing, petty jealousies and injustices of an ordinary man, Shao Bin, who tangles with the party bosses. In this first novel, as in his short fiction,
Review: 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 Park
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