book review: the crazed

Ha Jin writes in English, but about China. I’ve talked about a few of his books before. The Crazed is about a literature student at a shitty Chinese college in 1989. He’s studying for his PhD exams so he can go to Beijing with his fiancee when his adviser has a stroke. The student has to take care of his teacher and listening to the babyish madman in his hospital bed makes him think about things differently. It’s quite good. That same understated kind of tone I’ve felt in the rest of his books. You keep on waiting for the big melodramatic thing to happen but for the most part it doesn’t, making it all feel much more real.

That it’s 1989 is significant to the story and Chinese politics are around, though not as prominent as university politics. I kind of feel like if I didn’t know modern Chinese students and how universities out there worked I might not have liked this as much as I did, but I feel like I knew how accurate all this stuff was.

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