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The professor begins to rave pleading with invisible tormentors and denouncing his familyAre these just manifestations of illness or is Yang spewing up the truth? In a China convulsed Ha Jin offers an insight into China's culture that is at once confronting and revealing Although his work is driven by seemingly ordinary plots the real beauty is in his portrayal of a late twentieth century China as it wrestles with its inner turmoil between traditional values and contemporary influencesI've read a few reviews that criticise the first half of The Crazed for being slow and uninteresting but nothing could be further from the truth Granted there is a certain softness inherant in the author's work but it serves to aid the themes rather than alienate the reader Without the personal perspective and inner turmoil of the opening chapters the final climax would not seem as profound It is little than nonsense to suggest that the slower lead up to the action serves no purpose Rather it is a masterful stroke that completely prepares us for the existential break down of the protagonist that was initially fed by the original misfortuneThis book is rife with tragedy and misunderstanding There are many levels to the array of themes and sub plots that run constantly throughout Part of the charm of writing like this is that a reader can choose to ignore the depth of the prominant themes and still find superficial pleasure in the tale However there is so much bubbling away under the surface that to sneak even a momentary glance will bring much satisfaction The title really says it all as each character has to deal with their own passage through crazed philosophy and life changing decisions It would seem that Yang the obvious candidate for a label of crazed may in fact be the only sane character in the story Indeed with this dubious label plastered on definitions of other it aches to uestion the very nature of what we do and do not accept as sanityA wonderful book

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The Crazed

By the Tiananmen uprising those who listen to the truth are as much at risk as those who speak it Lyrical and heart breaking The Crazed is an incisive portrait of modern Chinese socie As a university student applying to graduate studies I realize how tough it can be with office politics getting in the way of research But as a student in a democratic and free country I appreciate that I can go in any direction that my research takes me provided I can secure funding Ha Jin's novel The Crazed gives us a view into Chinese scholarship of the recent past and like the main character Jian Wan makes us uestion the present and the future of studies in a highly insular communist countrySet in the late 1980s just before the massacre at Tienanmen Suare The Crazed tells the story of a young graduate student in the Chinese Language and Literature department at a small university Jian Wan's advisor who also happens to be his future father in law suffers a debilitating stroke Because Professor Yang's wife is in Tibet and his daughter is in Beijing Jian Wan and a few other devoted students including the good natured country boy Banping and the uietly intelligent Weiya opt to take care of Professor Yang in shifts until Mrs Yang arrives While this is happening Jian is studying to take the entrance examinations for Beijing University so that he can move there to be with his fiance Meimei Professor Yang's daughter and perhaps eventually secure a place at an American university for the two of themProfessor Yang is severely changed by the stroke and has fits of delirium He starts by singing out of date communist anthems and retelling stories in a confusing manner As time goes on however Professor Yang reveals bits about his private life and what he thinks about the life of a scholar leaving his student to piece together these fragments of information The other students are less bogged down by Professor Yang's ravings whether it be because he puts on his lecturer's mask when he sees them the undergraduates or because they just don't care to dwell on things Banping As Jian Wan starts to spend time in Professor Yang's company he starts to doubt whether he should take the entrance examinations at Beijing at all Instead he wonders if a life in the policy making branch of the government might be the right place for him Meimei who basically wants to live in Beijing at all costs gives him an ultimatum either take the exams or consider the engagement offJian had never really been politically interested but the ravings plus a trip to an impoverished town in the countryside push him and towards not taking the examinations What he does not realize is that there are forces conspiring against himThe last part of the book is where things get sloppy The physical action picks up but the ending feels rushed and unsatisfying Kleist in Thun young graduate student in the Chinese Language and Literature department at a small university Jian Wan's advisor who also happens to be his future father in law suffers a debilitating stroke Because Professor Yang's wife is in Tibet and his daughter is in Beijing Jian Wan and a few other devoted students including the good natured country boy Banping and the uietly intelligent Weiya opt to take care of Professor Yang in shifts until Mrs Yang arrives While this is happening Jian is studying to take the entrance examinations for Beijing University so that he can move there to be with his fiance Meimei Professor Yang's daughter and perhaps eventually secure a place at an American university for the two of themProfessor Yang is severely changed by the stroke and has fits of delirium He starts by singing out of date communist anthems and retelling stories in a confusing manner As time goes on however Professor Yang reveals bits about his private life and what he thinks about the life of a scholar leaving his student to piece together these fragments of information The other students are less bogged down by Professor Yang's ravings whether it be because he puts on his lecturer's mask when he sees them the undergraduates or because they just don't care to dwell on things Banping As Jian Wan starts to spend time in Professor Yang's company he starts to doubt whether he should take the entrance examinations at Beijing at all Instead he wonders if a life in the policy making branch of the government might be the right place for him Meimei who basically wants to live in Beijing at all costs gives him an ultimatum either take the exams or consider the engagement offJian had never really been politically interested but the ravings plus a trip to an impoverished town in the countryside push him and towards not taking the examinations What he does not realize is that there are forces conspiring against himThe last part of the book is where things get sloppy The physical action picks up but the ending feels rushed and unsatisfying

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Professor Yang a respected teacher of literature has had a stroke and it falls to Jian Wan who is also engaged to Yang's daughter to care for him It initially seems a simple duty until Ok First of all do NOT read this book's description on Goodreads it ruins the whole book Also don't listen to these fools' reviews whining about this book its boring the end mystifies me and so on How anyone could be mystified by the end of this book or could have no idea what Ha Jin was trying to say leaves me incredulous I'll admit I also thought it was monotonous at first I was mildly interested for the first 100 pages but after that I was totally consumed The writing is simple spare fluid and powerfully dreamlike at moments The shock of violence suffering and the reality of a soul's deep anguish at his deathbed hit me really deeply after the kind of slow day to day ness of the rest of the book In that way The Crazed reminds me of The Last Gentleman one of my favorite books At other moments Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurel Briggs came to mind also Camus' The StrangerI am really glad I stuck with this book and finished it I felt so much affection for the main character He had some unattractive ualities but it was so honest and I really felt for himI recommend this book


10 thoughts on “The Crazed

  1. says:

    Ha Jin is subtle He doesn't beat us over the head with an overview of the Chinese Cultural Revolution So the non Chinese reader can be a little lost here without that background The best preparation I can think of is Nien Cheng's magnificent Life and Death in Shanghai The Cultural Revolution was a world turned upside down Anyone subject to foreign influences—intellectuals officials students artists and dissidents—was labeled a rightist or counterrevolutionary They were humiliated imprisoned demoted and fired from their positions They were sent to labor and re education camps where they were tortured and killed The impact on the lives of innocent Chinese is almost beyond the grasp of human imagination In their biography Mao The Unknown Story authors Jung Chang and Jon Halliday claim that 70 million Chinese were killed by Mao in peacetime due to his various wrong headed policies such as the collectivization of agriculture and the Cultural Revolution which often turned children against parentsIn the case of the novel's Professor Yang it is clear that his life has been utterly destroyed by the Cultural Revolution and that the stroke he has 12 years later is merely its long term result Sent to a re education camp during the period roughly 1966 76 Yang drifted away from his wife who took up with another man to get by in Chinese society Yang may understand the practicality of that move on some level but after the stroke when we come upon him in the hospital out pours all his humiliation and invective in an almost nonstop torrent of abuse Narrator Jian Yang's student watches over him while arrangements are made for Yang's family members to care for him During this time he pieces together from these babblings the tragedy of his teacher's life and he becomes determined not to repeat it himself He realizes his own life must change after a last minute trip to Tiananmen Suare It is 1989 just before the Red Army cracks down on the student movement Ha Jin presents the reader with a pattern Prof Yang's life destroyed by the Cultural Revolution and now the threat of Tiananmen on narrator Jian's who in his turn becomes hunted as a counterrevolutionary The cycle of history repeats itself Jian admitsI saw China in the form of an old hag so decrepit and brainsick that she would devour her children to sustain herself Insatiable she had eaten many tender lives before was gobbling up new flesh and blood now and would surely swallow Unable to suppress the horrible vision all day I said to myself 'China is an old bitch that eats her own puppies' How my head throbbed and how my heart writhed and shuddered With the commotion of two nights ago still in my ears I feared I was going to lose my mindThus Jian under the stress becomes one of the crazed too There are Jin implies millions like him China has learned nothing from its own past since it possesses no genuine tradition of historical inuiry In the Santayanan sense then it is doomed to repeat its worst mistakes But Jian sees the pattern and he is determined not to be devoured


  2. says:

    Ok First of all do NOT read this book's description on Goodreads it ruins the whole book Also don't listen to these fools' reviews whining about this book its boring the end mystifies me and so on How anyone could be mystified by the end of this book or could have no idea what Ha Jin was trying to say leaves me incredulous I'll admit I also thought it was monotonous at first I was mildly interested for the first 100 pages but after that I was totally consumed The writing is simple spare fluid and powerfully dreamlike at moments The shock of violence suffering and the reality of a soul's deep anguish at his deathbed hit me really deeply after the kind of slow day to day ness of the rest of the book In that way The Crazed reminds me of The Last Gentleman one of my favorite books At other moments Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurel Briggs came to mind also Camus' The StrangerI am really glad I stuck with this book and finished it I felt so much affection for the main character He had some unattractive ualities but it was so honest and I really felt for himI recommend this book


  3. says:

    First let me say I loved the feel of the paper in this book LOVED it It felt good on my fingers Please someone tell me I'm not alone on this? I don't know when I last noticed paper uality it was lovelyNow the book itself was okay I wanted and maybe that's my fault Ha Jin tells an amazing story but honestly I was turned off by the reciting of poems and chants and songs It got old Not to mention I am not a huge poetry person either yes there are exceptions but this was blah blah blahDecent portrayal of the brain injured even better portrayal of those who are trying to deal with a loved one who is talking crazy shit shit that can be embarrassing harsh truthful andor babble Take your pickThe best part of the story for me was 50 pages to the end and I was not pleased about the ending Nope I want to know how things end Spell it out for me man It was like the Sopranos an ending that hit me and I'm left thinking wha? no We can't end hereSolid read and while the ending made me a bit peeved I'll read Ha Jin in the future


  4. says:

    This is one of those books that I was pretty sure would be boring but somehow I got sucked in The story surrounds a Chinese professor who suddenly falls ill and has a stroke I think and the care that is given to him by one of his students who is soon to be his son in law The end of the book focuses on the uprisings at Tienamen Suare and causes the protagonist to call into uestion his role in the world and whether he wants to be an academic I know there is a lot of meaning in this book but I didn't give it as much thought as I could have


  5. says:

    Ha Jin offers an insight into China's culture that is at once confronting and revealing Although his work is driven by seemingly ordinary plots the real beauty is in his portrayal of a late twentieth century China as it wrestles with its inner turmoil between traditional values and contemporary influencesI've read a few reviews that criticise the first half of The Crazed for being slow and uninteresting but nothing could be further from the truth Granted there is a certain softness inherant in the author's work but it serves to aid the themes rather than alienate the reader Without the personal perspective and inner turmoil of the opening chapters the final climax would not seem as profound It is little than nonsense to suggest that the slower lead up to the action serves no purpose Rather it is a masterful stroke that completely prepares us for the existential break down of the protagonist that was initially fed by the original misfortuneThis book is rife with tragedy and misunderstanding There are many levels to the array of themes and sub plots that run constantly throughout Part of the charm of writing like this is that a reader can choose to ignore the depth of the prominant themes and still find superficial pleasure in the tale However there is so much bubbling away under the surface that to sneak even a momentary glance will bring much satisfaction The title really says it all as each character has to deal with their own passage through crazed philosophy and life changing decisions It would seem that Yang the obvious candidate for a label of crazed may in fact be the only sane character in the story Indeed with this dubious label plastered on definitions of other it aches to uestion the very nature of what we do and do not accept as sanityA wonderful book


  6. says:

    Staggering Without a doubt this is Ha Jin's finest most important novel I was fairly stunned by the extraordinary War Trash but this one is cogent and obviously personal filled with gut wrenching urgency cynicism and despair


  7. says:

    As a university student applying to graduate studies I realize how tough it can be with office politics getting in the way of research But as a student in a democratic and free country I appreciate that I can go in any direction that my research takes me provided I can secure funding Ha Jin's novel The Crazed gives us a view into Chinese scholarship of the recent past and like the main character Jian Wan makes us uestion the present and the future of studies in a highly insular communist countrySet in the late 1980s just before the massacre at Tienanmen Suare The Crazed tells the story of a young graduate student in the Chinese Language and Literature department at a small university Jian Wan's advisor who also happens to be his future father in law suffers a debilitating stroke Because Professor Yang's wife is in Tibet and his daughter is in Beijing Jian Wan and a few other devoted students including the good natured country boy Banping and the uietly intelligent Weiya opt to take care of Professor Yang in shifts until Mrs Yang arrives While this is happening Jian is studying to take the entrance examinations for Beijing University so that he can move there to be with his fiance Meimei Professor Yang's daughter and perhaps eventually secure a place at an American university for the two of themProfessor Yang is severely changed by the stroke and has fits of delirium He starts by singing out of date communist anthems and retelling stories in a confusing manner As time goes on however Professor Yang reveals bits about his private life and what he thinks about the life of a scholar leaving his student to piece together these fragments of information The other students are less bogged down by Professor Yang's ravings whether it be because he puts on his lecturer's mask when he sees them the undergraduates or because they just don't care to dwell on things Banping As Jian Wan starts to spend time in Professor Yang's company he starts to doubt whether he should take the entrance examinations at Beijing at all Instead he wonders if a life in the policy making branch of the government might be the right place for him Meimei who basically wants to live in Beijing at all costs gives him an ultimatum either take the exams or consider the engagement offJian had never really been politically interested but the ravings plus a trip to an impoverished town in the countryside push him and towards not taking the examinations What he does not realize is that there are forces conspiring against himThe last part of the book is where things get sloppy The physical action picks up but the ending feels rushed and unsatisfying


  8. says:

    My first thought on finishing was chagrin that I might easily have gone through life without reading or even knowing about this great novel I just happened to spot it on the library shelf and picked it up because I'd liked Waiting It's true that I have a special interest in stories about China but what makes this one so special for me is the way the narrator Jian is handled He's a young graduate student engaged to be married with important exams looming who must put everything on hold to care for his ailing professor The young man's growing doubts about the direction his life is taking combined with his vulnerability and idealism brought my own younger self clearly to mindAt heart the Chinese are very similar to anyone else I should know But there is also an unattractive side to their culture presented here in the form of a tyrannical Communist Party secretary at the school and in small scenes such as an altercation in a cafe near the end of the book Jian must navigate treacherous waters infinitely so in that the story climaxes with the June 4 Tiananmen Suare massacreI think I could very easily have been him and if I had I probably would have made all the choices he did Now I'm wondering if other readers will have the same reactionThe only reservation I have is that despite the author's remarkable command of English his word choice is sometimes not uite right Know the way subtitles of Chinese movies can leave something to be desired? Well it's not as bad as that but another editorial pass by a native speaker of English might have helped A minor uibble very minor in view of the impact this had on me


  9. says:

    This was really close to a 4 out of 5 stars but the ending was just not enough for me The last 100 pages were incredible as a whole if you subtract the last 3 to 4 pages and there were some truly incredible moments in here However I just don't think Ha Jin focused on the right thing here The poetry he puts into this book seems to be in the way of the story It is the euivalent of someone shaking a bunch of car keys in your face while you are watching a movie like Citizen Kane or Dr Strangelove However I do think that this book is good overall Ha Jin is a great author but I just didn't think this book lived up to the greatness of Waiting I personally would recommend this one after you have read and liked Waiting and if you didn't like Waiting than I guess you can skip this one I am giving this one a 35 out of 5 stars


  10. says:

    Having read 'Waiting' by the same author I was intrigued by what this book would offer On the whole it was a fairly enjoyable read I found the parts where Ha Jin describes life in China at the time interesting and wish there had been of this in the book The end chapters depicting the horrors of Tiananmen Suare were brutally told conveying the sense of injustice and fear that the events engendered However despite being the main main theme of the novel I found the hospitalised uncle sections to be rather disappointing I found it difficult to stay with the story during these parts of the book 'The Crazed' is definitely worth a read just for the effortless mesmerising storytelling although I enjoyed 'Waiting'


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