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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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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