Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ha Jin's Under the Red Flag

Ha Jin falls off the cliff in his collection of short stories Under the Red Flag. 
The stories purportedly take place during the Cultural Revolution, so we would expect tales that reflect that turbulent time.  

But the collection is far more random than that; stories like “The Richest Man,” take on the subject of the Cultural Revolution head on, while others, like “Sovereignty,” take a more subtle approach to China’s rapid and violence changes, reflected in a fight between a foreign and native pig.  

The rest of the stories have a strong misogynistic vein, and seem to exist to explain the customs and restrictions of Chinese life, rather than giving us truly accomplished art.  The stories have an incomplete feel.  As if Ha Jin is was rushed and writing in a kind of short hand.

So in this collection is seems that Ha Jin has taken the easy way out.  He has hit the ethnic road, giving us exotic stories in strange settings, but done nothing very powerful with plot, character, language, narrative, or form.

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