A New York Times Notable Book A Washington Post, Los Angeles times, and San Jose Mercury News Best Book of the Year
Ha Jin’s seismically powerful new novel is at once an unblinking look into the bell jar of communist Chinese society and a portrait of the eternal compromises and deceptions of the human state. When the venerable professor Yang, a teacher of literature at a provincial university, has a stroke, his student Jian Wan is assigned to care for him. Since the dutiful Jian plans to marry his mentor’s beautiful, icy daughter, the job requires delicacy. Just how much delicacy becomes clear when Yang begins to rave.
Are these just the outpourings of a broken mind, or is Yang speaking the truth—about his family, his colleagues, and his life’s work? And will bearing witness to the truth end up breaking poor Jian’s heart? Combining warmth and intimacy with an unsparing social vision, The Crazed is Ha Jin’s most enthralling book to date.
Set in communist China, this novel from the author of the National Book Award winning Waiting is appealing but flawed. Jian Wan, a Chinese graduate student, has his future clearly charted: study for his doctorate in classical literature in Beijing; marry his fiancée, Meimei; and spend his life as a distinguished scholar. However, two events reveal the hidden turmoil beneath the surface and radically alter his plans. First, his mentor and future father-in-law, Professor Yang, suffers a stroke. While nursing Yang, who has fallen into a "crazed" state of ranting, Wan discovers that his mentor's life is not as it appears. The second event is the 1989 student demonstration for democratic reform that takes place on Tiananmen Square. Revolution is in the air, and the once-innocent Wan begins to question his career path and marriage plans. While readers come to see the interplay between private dissatisfaction and public protest, this political allegory feels contrived at times. When Wan too closely heeds the mad and furious words of his hospitalized mentor, his life unravels in a manner that seems more convenient than credible. Author James Schiff