Genre: Short Stories, Chinese literature, Kindle Short, Literary Fiction
Ha Jin is an author where I can’t really determine my feelings for. I don’t hate him, but I don’t love him either. I haven’t read enough of him to determine this. I read and reviewed Waiting during my first year of college, the beginning of all educational torture. Then I purchased Nanjing Requiem and kept setting it aside for reasons I’m not sure of. His writing is fine, simple, but reads well enough. He doesn’t produce the worse of metaphors or similes. His writing feels like he is actually in my room reading a bed time story, which would be totally awkward. I think what truly puts me off about Ha Jin is that every time I finish a story by him, there’s always this incomplete silence, the puzzle comes together, but there is a teeny tiny piece that is missing. The endings aren’t very happy either, there seems to be a brutal reality in his stories, the knots are always too tight and painful. Yet there is a strange sort of relief. I hope this all makes sense.
So this little short is basically about a struggling man in China, a part of China I can’t remember the name of, a China that I can’t tell if it’s Post- Cultural Revolution or before it. It’s definitely before the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Anyway, this man named, I forgot his name…. It’s Guhan, which I kept pronouncing in my head as Gohan, instead of Guhan. Guhan has a son, a daughter, and a wife, a typical nuclear family. He wants to support his son’s and daughter’s ambitions, but like most stories of Chinese people living in small towns, he can’t afford it and the house is too small. He can’t buy his son an apartment and he can’t get his daughter a job that will keep her close. Then, like most hard working fathers who sacrifice themselves and the world for their family, he goes out of town. Oddly enough, before he leaves, the wife asks him a question that was basically somewhere along the lines of “Are you sure you want to go so far from home?” Foreshadowing at its best, an earthquake happens, he gets knocked around and loses his memory.
It’s a touching story and I liked it more than Waiting, but again, I was left with the same feelings. I’m starting to actually understand it and maybe like it, Ha Jin is a bittersweet story teller. After this earthquake, Guhan starts life over again, but when memory kicks back in, he returns, and is left with this conflicted and unsatisfied heart. That is what makes Ha Jin so brilliant, those feelings that are just too human and painful to bear. Too close for comfort.