"Splendidly fluid and clear: Ha Jin has managed to make an utterly alien world seem as familiar as an old friend."
"Ha Jin is a master satirist, not so much of Chinese politics as of the human psyche when it's being twisted and pummeled by some higher authority."
"[Ha Jin] infuses his tales with unforgettable characters who are grappling with questions of honor and shame, passion vs. respectability."
—San Jose Mercury News
"Mr. Jin's haunting portraits of life in China, particularly during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, are shattering conventional expectations of what it is to be a 'Chinese writer,' and at the same time attracting torrents of praise."
—Asian Wall Street Journal
"The spirit of a rural town during China's Cultural Revolution is captured in this strong collection from poet and People's Army veteran Jin (Oceans of Words), one of China's best-known post-Tiananmen imigris . . . Through a series of troubling vignettes . . . the reader gains a unique picture of a people struggling in a world in which matchmakers and fortune tellers exist with party officials and Red Guards."
The twelve stories in Under the Red Flag take place during China's Cultural Revolution. Ha Jin, who was raised in China and emigrated to the United States after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, writes about loss and moral deterioration with the keen sense of a survivor. His stories examine life in the bleak rural town of Dismount Fort, where the men and women are full of passion and certainty but blinded by their limited vision as they grapple with honor and shame, manhood and death, infidelity and repression.
In "A Man-to-Be," a militiaman engaged to be married participates in a gang rape, but finds himself impotent when he looks into the eyes of the victim. His fiancee's family breaks off the engagement, not because of the rape, but because they doubt his virility. In "Winds and Clouds over a Funeral," a Communist leader disobeys his mother's last wish for burial to keep his good standing in the party, but his enemies bring him down for being a bad son. "In Broad Daylight" is the story of the public humiliation of a woman accused of being a whore. Her dignified defiance is gradually stripped away as she is dragged through the streets, cursed and spat upon by strangers and family alike.
In Under the Red Flag, privacy is nonexistent and paranoia rules as neighbor turns against neighbor, husband turns against wife, state turns against individual, history turns against humanity. These stories display the earnestness and grandeur of human folly, and in a larger sense, form a moral history of a time and a place.
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