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Waiting ()

National Book Award Winners (1999)

    Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.

So begins Ha Jin's aptly named novel. ÝLin Kong is a country born doctor now practicing at an Army hospital in Muji City in Maoist China. ÝThere he has fallen in love with a nurse, Manna Wu, a modern urban woman. But his country wife, Shuyu, refuses to grant him a divorce, despite the lovelessness of their arranged marriage. ÝThe moral strictures of Communist society are sufficiently severe that Lin Kong and Manna Wu are forced to wait until Shuyu gives her okay, which she continues to withhold while her daughter by Lin Kong is growing up. ÝThus, the lovers are forced into a decades long holding pattern, until Lin Kong compares himself to a sleepwalker and wonders if he's not more in love with an illusion than with a real being.

Though this story is sometimes maddeningly slow, it is quite beautifully told, in very direct and stripped down language, and does develop a certain tension as we wait for Shuyu to set Lin Kong free. Along the way Ha Jin, who was himself a Red Army soldier, provides a fascinating cultural history of China in the 60s and 70s. ÝBut the real power of the story is allegorical. ÝLin Kong wants to shuck off the traditional China (Shuyu) and embrace the new, modern, Communist China (Manna). ÝBut as the process of attaining the new drags on, with no fulfillment in sight, he begins to question why he wanted Manna in the first place, wonders whether he even retains the capacity to love, or whether the continuous deferral of love and suspension of life has emotionally paralyzed him, and grows nostalgic for Shuyu and the more traditional China of the village he grew up in. Ý

One imagines this must somewhat parallel Ha Jin's own experience, and/or that of many people he knew in China. ÝAt any rate, he deftly takes one of the oldest of romantic plots--the dependable and decent spouse abandoned for the sexier, but ultimately illusory, lover--and imposes the story of Communist China upon it.  It works quite well and makes up for the at times too stately pace of the story-telling.


Grade: (A-)


Book-related and General Links:
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of Waiting by Ha Jin
    -STORY : The Bridegroom (Ha Jin, Harper's Magazine, July, 1999)
    -POEM : Missed Time by Ha Jin (Poetry Magazine)
    -Ha Jin (Bold Type)
    -Ha Jin (International Writers Series, Sweet Briar College)
    -LECTURE : The National Book Award: Winners' Acceptance Speeches : Ha Jin Accepting the 1999 National Book Award for Fiction for Waiting
    -LECTURE : A Transcript from the 1999 National Book Award Winner for Fiction : Ha Jin discusses Waiting and the Writing Life at the University of San Francisco's Gershwin Theater (February 26, 2000, Publishers' Weekly)
    -INTERVIEW : with Ha Jin (Elizabeth Farnsworth, Online Newshour)
    -INTERVIEW : A Conversation with Ha Jin (Interview conducted by Rich Rennicks,
    -INTERVIEW : Ha Jin Lets It Go (Dave Weich,
    -INTERVIEW : ÝA Conversation with Ha Jin (Alexa Olesen, Virtual China)
    -INTERVIEW : An Interview with Ha Jin (November 17, 2000 Asia Source)
    -INTERVIEW : Ha Jin: In His Own Words (Book Browse)
    -INTERVIEW : Author vs. Authority : Taking on the man: Anti-authoritarian Ha Jin : Ha Jin talks about being a dissident writerwithout politics. (Andrew Ervin, December 7?14, 2000, Philadelphia
City Paper)
    -INTERVIEW : Look back in wonder : Ha Jin is winning major awards for deeply affecting poems and evocative short stories about life in a China that's quickly disappearing. (SANDRA MARTIN, January 3, 2001, Globe Books)
    -INTERVIEW : IN CONVERSATION: Author Ha Jin writes of love lost and a life postponed (JOHN MARK EBERHART, 12/29/00, The Kansas City Star)
    -INTERVIEW : Author Ha Jin on the Rewards of Waiting : Emory University professor talks about his novel (Kim Chun, AsianWeek)
    -PROFILE & INTERVIEW : Ha Jin (Bookreporter)
    -PROFILE : Ha Jin's Cultural Revolution : The emigre novelist, a former soldier under Mao, still has trouble speaking English. So how can he write like Henry James? By DWIGHT GARNER, February 06, 2000 , NY Times Magazine)
Spring 1998, Emory Magazine)
    -PROFILE : Ha Jin of America : The Chinese emigre and 1999 National Book Award winner makes his choices. (Jerome V. Kramer, January 2000, Book Magazine)
    -PROFILE : Ha Jin (LISSA RICHARDSON, November 10, 2000, Austin Chronicle)
    -PROFILE : Worth the Wait (Beijing Scene)
    -READING GROUP GUIDE : Waiting by Ha Jin (Random House)
    -ARCHIVES : "ha Jin" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "ha jin" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Francine Prose, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Gregory Feeley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting by Ha Jin (Toby Clements, booksonline)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Paul Gray, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Elisabeth Sherwin, UC Davis)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Kenneth Champeon, Things Asian)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (C Q Wang, Ralph Mag)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Spotlight Verlag)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (LISSA RICHARDSON, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Shirley Lin '02, The Dartmouth Contemporary)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Jeanne McDonald, MetroPulse)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (John Gava, Law Society Journal au)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (Jeffrey C. Kinkley, World Literature Today)
    -REVIEW : of Waiting (John Freeman, City Pages)
    -REVIEW : of Under the Red Flag (L.P. Streitfeld, New Mass Media)
    -REVIEW : of Under the Red Flag (Gail Tsukiyama, Pacific Rim Voices)
    -REVIEW : of Under the Red Flag (PAUL GRAY , TIME)
    -REVIEW : of Under the Red Flag by Ha Jin (Adam Mazmanian, Newsday)
    -REVIEW : of Under the Red Flag (Fatima ÝWu, World Literature Today)
    -REVIEW : of In the Pond by Ha Jin (Nicholas Patterson, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of THE BRIDEGROOM Stories. By Ha Jin (Claire Messud, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Michael Scott Moore, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Steven G. Kellman , SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Charles Foran, Far Eastern Economic Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Simon Patton, Sydney Morning Herald)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (HARVEY GROSSINGER, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Amy C. Rea, Literal Mind)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Bradely Winterton, Taipei Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Polo, Asian Reporter)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (JIM HIGGINS, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel )
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Lisa C. Hickman, Memphis Flyer)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom by Ha Jin Ý(Nicola McAllister, booksonline)
    -REVIEW : of The Bridegroom (Carolyn See, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Ocean of Words by Ha Jin (Helen Mitsios, Book Wire)
    -BOOK LIST : Small worlds : The author of "Election" and "Joe College" picks five great books set in places where everyone knows everyone else's business. : In the Pond by Ha Jin (Tom Perrotta, Salon)
    -AWARD : National Book Award for Fiction 1999 : Waiting by Ha Jin
    -ARTICLE : Gaffes, but no fireworks, at National Book Awards : Unlike 1998, no egos run amok. (Craig Offman, November 1999, Salon)