The stark and powerful first novel by the prize-winning author of Waiting.
Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 for the USA. He is the author of the novels, Waiting , winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Fiction, and the 2000 PEN/ Faulkner Award; and The Crazed, as well as three collections of stories and three volumes of poetry. He lives near Boston and teaches at Boston University.
Prize-winning short-story writer Ha Jin (Ocean of Words won the PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction; Under the Red Flag won the Flannery O'Connor Award) offers a wise and funny first novel that gathers meticulously observed images into a seething yet restrained tale of social injustice in modern China. Talented artist Shao Bin has an unsatisfying job at a large fertilizer plant. After being denied a decent housing assignment, he begins a series of retaliatory satirical cartoons, which illustrate his employers' flaws and in turn earn their wrath‘which in turn inspires more cartoons. When his superiors try to transfer him, they are chagrined to discover that Bin is much in demand‘and that any new job he gets is likely to be a step up. So they decide to keep him on. After an occasionally monotonous sequence of attacks and counterattacks, Bin finally gets promoted to the propaganda office. He is ecstatic, although his family must still make do with the same uncomfortable apartment that started the conflict. Luckily, the characters' complexity saves the story from political overkill. The supervisors, through moments of vulnerability, come to seem like genuinely detestable human beings rather than one-dimensional villains. Bin, similarly, is both justifiably indignant and annoying in his self-absorption. Ha Jin's humor initially appears clownish but almost always has a double purpose: when Bin's supervisor sits on his face to silence him, Bin bites the boss' posterior‘illustrating rather vividly his refusal to kiss ass. Through Ha Jin's gently ironic treatment, Bin's struggle both to achieve power in his community and retain his own dignity transcends its Communist Chinese setting, engagingly illustrating a universal conundrum. (Nov.)
Though art and politics figure in the action, In the Pond is
first and foremost a comedy - naughty, lusty, raucously
entertaining. Ha Jin's language echoes working-class Chinese at its
rough, bawdy best * New York Times Book Review *
Fascinating...spare and taut... A fable about morality and power * Chicago Tribune *
Ha Jin captures the particularities of life in China, yet we recognise his characters intimately. The 'otherness' of this most foreign nation falls away as one vividly drawn human after another takes flesh on the page * Boston Globe *
Fascinating, refreshing and uncommonly subtle: Ha Jin has made China available to a new world and a world of new readers * Kirkus Reviews *
A compelling exploration of the terrain that is the human heart... an all too rare reminder of the reasons why someone might feel so strongly about a book * New York Times *