Friday, January 02, 2009

"Waiting" by Ha Jin

I read a good book after a very long time. This is a story set in mainland China during Mao's Cultural Revolution; about a sincere, studious doctor, who is trapped in a loveless marriage & waits for 18 long years for his divorce to be granted, so that he could finally be with the woman he loves. It sounds like a simple plot, but is quite nicely written; sort of a political parellel to the entire generation of Chinese youth of the time who were raised to be too patient to speak up for what was right; too rules-bound to know how to live without them; too passive to create change for themselves; while an opportunistic few prospered at their expense.

A friend of mine (she was my Mandarin tutor actually, but since I've discontinued my lessons she's just a friend now); lived in Beijing through the Cultural Revolution in the 70s; & told me a lot of stories & personal accounts from those times. At the time, I thought it incredible; I still do; the stories of how all religious buildings were destroyed, how capitalist books were confiscated, how school children grew up parroting Mao's poetry & writings, how ancient Chinese festivals & customs & knowledge were lost forever in mainland China after they were banned during the Cultural Revolution. That was my first introduction to the bizzare events that happened in China.

Then I came across this book, which makes a beautifully told argument for individualism (as against the collective society) layered beneath a painful love story. And how it takes a certain kind of people to make a society, like the communist China in the 60s & 70s, work.

8 comments:

Fighter Jet said...

Nice account.Seems interesting.

666 said...

I know little of nothing about the far east. Countries like China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam are really strange to me. But I guess its just a mind block really. When the diktat for getting my ass into any of these places ever comes.. i am sure i would get excited and all :-)

Sneha said...

Wow, seems interesting.
You've learned Mandarin? That's awesome!

Moi said...

I like the title too, Radha. Thanks for sharing the plot.......I have never read any "Chinese literarure"......the account reminds me faintly of whatever little I have read of Russian literature....or a book I read on how Polish suffered at the hands of first Nazis and then the Red Army.

Would love to read this one, if only I can get my reading habit back.....ever since I started working, reading as taken such a backseat......:((((

and hey, wish you, H and your soon-to-arrive li'l bundle of joy a very happy 2009 :) when did you say the baby is due???? and how have you been faring??? take care!!!!

Moi said...

* literature

Jas Bhambra said...

Long time Radha. I have missed out so much.
First of all let me wish you a very happy new year and congratulations on awaiting the arrival of a little one.

Jas Bhambra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Satyajit said...

think the author is an Indian bureaucrat and his name mixed up ... its "Haan ji"