Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Waiting :: Ha Jin

I owe this blog a few book posts. I just get lazy because, well, essentially that's what my own personal blog is. But I must support Moonie's baby... So I won't do detailed reviews, but I'll give a quick overview and some quick thoughts.

First up:

Waiting is a story about a Chinese guy who lives in the city with his modern girlfriend, and every year he returns to his village and tries to divorce his quaint wife from an arranged, loveless marriage. But every year she refuses. Set in a backdrop of a changing China, it's sparse yet affected.

I liked this. The tone of it is pretty slow and quiet, although we travel through years. It somehow captures a tone of "China" pretty well, even though it's written in English, and was, originally. The story itself, while never overly heartbreaking or even captivating, is quiet and raises the question of tradition vs. modernity.

It's very good, if not something I would rave about. Worth a read.


Froog said...

'Very good' isn't a rave?

This is probably the best Chinese novel I've read, a fascinating glimpse of the country at the beginning of its great transition in the 1980s.

However, I still have grave reservations about it. Although it wasn't written in Chinese, it still has a very distinctively Chinese sensibility - and that's not something that tends to be very appealing to Westerners. The extreme spareness of the language, and the obsessive but seemingly pointless attention to details of the natural environment, can be stupefyingly DULL.

angelle said...

I actually find that to be one of the things I really liked about it. It's amazing to me that he can get the Chinese sensibility across -- writing in English. I think it's what actually lends it a certain charm, and makes it convincing.

But again, I also don't love love love it. And that could be part of why. It almost feels slightly anthropological.

Lauren said...

This is actually one of my all-time favorite books. As a fan of Samuel Beckett's and having spent far too much of my life Waiting, I found the simplicity of the language refreshing, and the restraint hauntingly accurate and deep. If you want something a little less restrained, check out The Crazed. I loved Jin's depiction of a brilliant professor's alzheimers opening up what were once private intellectual doors juxtaposed with the students' own questioning of traditional society as they prepare to attend a rally at Tiennamen Square. The opera he wrote was also fantastic!