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The Crazed Paperback – January 6, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Set during the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989, The Crazed, a novel from Ha Jin, the award-winning author of the bestseller Waiting, unites a prominent Chinese university professor who suffers a brain injury and Jien Wen, a favorite student and future son-in-law who becomes his caretaker. As Professor Yang rants about his earlier life, his bizarre outbursts begin to strike Jien as containing some truth and, considering the uncertain times, he puzzles over their meaning. When Jien realizes that his additional responsibilities make sitting for his Ph.D. exams impossible, Meimei, his fiancée, promptly discards him, branding him as unloving, since passing the exams would have ensured they would both have attended graduate school in Beijing. Unmoored from the university, and unconnected to anything else, Jien joins the student movement and as a result becomes a police suspect.

Problematic to the plot is that Meimei is hardly warm to Jien; their relationship never appears to be anything but doomed. The professor's hallucinatory diatribes comprise the bulk of the novel, and initially it seems unlikely that a story will ever evolve from these ramblings. But with Yang indisposed, minor characters from the university conspire to devise means to further their personal agendas. A mystery results, as university and literature department personnel plot to have someone other than Jien marry Meimei. Jin's prose is succinct, but the most interesting parts of Jien's life occur, unfortunately, at the end of the book, leaving readers who fell for Waiting wanting more. --Michael Ferch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

On the day after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, Jian Wan, the narrator of Ha Jin's powerful new novel, comes upon two weeping students. "I'm going to write a novel to fix all the fascists on the page," says one of them. The other responds, "yes... we must nail them to the pillory of history." Ha's novel is written in the conviction that writers don't nail anyone to anything: at best, they escape nailing themselves. Jian is a graduate student in literature at provincial Shanning University. In the spring of 1989, his adviser, Professor Yang, suffers a stroke, and Jian listens as the bedridden Yang raves about his past. Yang's bitterness about his life under the yoke of the Communist Party infects Jian, who decides to withdraw from school. His fiancee Professor Yang's daughter, Meimei breaks off their engagement in disgust, but Jian is heartened by a trip into the countryside, after which he decides that he will devote himself to helping the province's impoverished peasants. His plan is to become a provincial official, but the Machiavellian maneuverings of the Party secretary of the literature department a sort of petty Madame Mao cheat him of this dream, sending him off on a hapless trip to Beijing and Tiananmen Square. Despite this final quixotic adventure, Ha's story is permeated by a grief that won't be eased or transmuted by heroic images of resistance. Jian settles for shrewd, small rebellions, to prevent himself from becoming "just a piece of meat on a chopping board." Like Gao Xingjian, Ha continues to refine his understanding of politics as an unmitigated curse.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Intl ed. edition (January 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714115
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Professor Yang of Shanning University, China, is "The Crazed" of Ha Jin's new novel. Having just suffered a stroke, he is given to frequent rants, many pieces of which hint at a wretched life lived. His faithful graduate student and soon-to-be son-in-law Jian Wan is assigned by the university to attend to the professor's daily needs. In the sparse hospital room, he cannot help listening in on the rants. As he does, Wan tries to understand the deep sense of loss that his professor has suffered. It is later evident to the young graduate student that the professor has had to deal with much personal pain and a fruitless existence. "Every intellectual is a clerk in China", Professor Yang raves, "just a clerk, a screw in the machine of the revolution." The professor's unfortunate life eventually changes the course of at least three others.
Jian Wan himself is desperately trying to hold it all together-caring for his professor while his PhD qualifying exams loom around the corner. The fate of these exams will determine whether or not he can make it to Beijing to be with his ambitious fiancée, Meimei (Yang's daughter). At first, Jian Wan assumes he has no other choice than follow the scholarly course that has been charted for him. However, Yang's endless rants about the meaningless existence of a scholar, along with a transformative trip to the countryside, point him in another way. "As a human being, I should spend my life in such a way that at the final hour I could feel fulfillment and contentment, as if I had completed a task or a journey." Jian Wan says. He no longer wants to pretend to be a scholar, but live instead, a truly productive life. As Jian Wan tries to find a way out, he realizes he is powerless in a society that crushes all dissent.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was the first I've read by Ha Jin. I tried Waiting but didn't give it a chance. Now I will.
There is never much said about a book's design, but this one merits high praise. Iris Weinstein, the designer, picked the typeface Cochin for the text, which is a "versatile face and looks well on any kind of paper." In addition, its "italic is delightful," say the notes at the back of the book, and indeed it is delightful. Italic is scattered throughout the text, as Prof. Yang, the dying, delusional teacher of Jian Wan, Ph.D. candidate and devoted student, is constantly quoting lyrics from various incongruent sources such as Red Brigade songs, children's propaganda ditties, and Dante, Goethe, and Tu Fu. The italic veritably dances on the page. And the text too is solid. Somehow I kept thinking about Kafka as I read this novel. Something about the design of the book, and Ha Jin's style of writing, and what he was writing about, the utter madness of Prof. Yang, the stifling conditions of China, and Jian Wan's constant attempts at trying to make sense of it all drew me back to Kafka's The Trial and The Castle. Indeed there are similarities between the two writers: being trapped in an absurd world of irrational authority, constantly trying to make sense of a hopeless bureauracy, outbursts of vicious violence, and feelings of deep hopelessness. But Ha Jin also is unique. He writes of a secret world we are just beginning to understand. And he draws us to the horror of Tiananmen Square. He writes of personal struggles with love and meaning, and how these "personal interests...motivate the individual and therefore generate the dynamics of history." That is what makes Ha Jin's work dynamic and true.
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Format: Hardcover
Winner of the PEN/Faulkner award and the National Book Award for his novel, "Waiting," Ha Jin left his native China for the US in 1985 and is now a professor of English at Boston University. With this third novel, set in 1989, at the time of the Tiananmen Square upheavals, he again demonstrates his command of the English language and the nuances of human behavior. His prose is spare and compact and charged with the sense that anything might happen.
The book opens calmly, even placidly, as the narrator, graduate student Jian Wan, explains that his mentor, Professor Yang, has suffered a stroke. Yang has been helping him prepare for the Ph. D entrance exams for classical literature at Beijing University, the foundation of Jian's meticulously planned future. He will pass the exams and join his fiancée, Professor Yang's daughter Meimei, in the city, "where we planned to build our nest." He will become a teacher himself and spend his life in scholarly pursuits, a spiritual aristocrat, rich in heart, as his teacher has counseled. Now, as the closest thing to a family member available, Jian has been assigned to nurse Yang, which he is glad to do, though uneasy about the lost time. "I was anxious - without thorough preparation I couldn't possibly do well in the exams."
A sober, conventional, conscientious young man, Jian's settled outlook is soon disrupted by more than inadequate study time. The professor is suffering a kind of dementia that at first seems nonsensical. But as the days pass, Yang focuses on events which seem to come from his past. An intellectual, Yang was a "target of the struggle" during the Cultural Revolution. He had been denounced, humiliated, his books burned. Once he had told Jian that during difficult times he would quote Dante to himself.
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