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The Crazed by Ha Jin

The Crazed (original 2002; edition 2004)

by Ha Jin

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6901220,069 (3.53)36
Title:The Crazed
Authors:Ha Jin
Info:Vintage (2004), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:China, Read in 2009

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The Crazed by Ha Jin (2002)



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i was more than 90% of the way through this book when it started to get interesting. if not for the ending, it would have gotten even fewer stars.

themes of identity in a culture that doesn't allow individualism, as well as what happens if/when someone finally starts to tell their truth.we think it's mr yang who is the crazed one of the title, based on his ravings, but we find that it's the main character, who wants to be someone who can make his own decisions. this was, for me, the nicest part of this book, discovering that.

to me, there was a disconnect with the characters and the situation. i couldn't have cared less about them or what was happening and didn't understand why someone in jian's position would feel or behave the way he did. additionally, the leaps he made with mr yang's (wholly unrealistic and so unbelievable) rantings were silly to me. there were hundreds of explanations for any of the things mr yang said and was talking about; to make the connections that jian did was just *way* too much poetic license on ha jin's part. there was nothing to draw me in at all, until quite close to the end, when we finally get some motivation for some of the action. i'm glad it was there, but it was too little too late, for me. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Mar 10, 2016 |
Huh? I remember nothing about this book. ( )
  lxydis | May 11, 2013 |
brilliant; mixes the political with the personal; narrator (Jian) is crazed, dying Mr. Yang is crazed, China is, society is; each detail of life is so personal, but each life so clearly overlaps with Tiananmen Square-era China
1 vote FKarr | Apr 5, 2013 |
The Crazed by Ha Jin is a masterful book. Engaging. Carefully detailed. Excellent characterization. Well plotted. The setting is China at the time of the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989.
Briefly, it is about a college professor, Mr. Yang, who after suffering a stroke, is cared for by his star student and soon-to-be son-in-law, Jian Wan. On his sickbed, Mr. Yang recalls things from his past in a rambling disjointed way. At times he is lucid and at times, not. As Yang reveals secrets from his past, Jian Wan, the narrator, begins to see Yang's life in a new and different light, realizing that this is not a life he wants to follow.
I loved how Jian Wan's growth is revealed. As he comes to new realizations, he seeks and discovers what is true and important and what is not. He discovers his true passions do not lie in academia; he learns of the 'tricks of the academic game.' As he questions his life to that point, the reader begins to see shifts in his ideology and a transformed purpose. Jian Wan's awakening is the story of his generation and his coming of age story parallels that of China's.
In a discussion with Mr. Yang, Jian Wan's true thoughts begin to unfold:
'Have you read Dante?' he asked me in a nasal voice... 'No, I haven't.' Unable to say yes, I was somewhat embarrassed. 'You should read The Divine Comedy. After you finish it, you will look at the world differently.'So I borrowed all three books of the poem from the library and went through them in two weeks, but I didn't enjoy the poem and felt the world remained the same.' (p. 71)
I loved this quote: Yang recalling his experience as a scholar in the West says this: 'Oh, you should have seen the libraries at Berkeley, absolutely magnificent. You can go to the stacks directly, see what's on them, and can even check out some rare books. Frankly, I would die happy if I could work as a librarian in a place like that all my life.' (p. 105)
The tension that Jian Wan feels is revealed when another professor asks Yang: 'Why should we look down on ourselves so? We're both intellectuals, aren't we?' Yang replies, 'No, we're not. Who is an intellectual in China? Ridiculous, anyone with a college education is called an intellectual. The truth is that all people in the humanities are clerks and all people in the sciences are technicians. Tell me, who is a really independent intellectual, has original ideas and speaks the truth? None that I know of. We're all dumb laborers kept by the state--a retrograde species.' (p. 153) While this is a conversation between another professor and Yang, Jian Wan takes it to heart and acts on it.
The final quote from the book is this: 'Ever since I boarded the train back, a terrible vision had tormented me. I 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 new flesh and blood now, and would surely swallow more.' (p. 315)

A worthy read. One of the best books I've read this year. ( )
1 vote lnlamb | Apr 21, 2010 |
There is much to think about in this historical fiction book with its stark hospital room setting and the confused memories of a Chinese professor recovering from a stroke. Jian is the future son-in-law of Professor Yang, who must interrupt his PhD studies to care for his mentor. As Mr. Wang sings and rants about strange things that occurred during the Cultural Revolution, Jian begins to question whether or not he ever truly knew this man at all. ( )
  Donna828 | Nov 8, 2009 |
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Everybody was surprised when Professor Yang suffered a stroke in the spring of 1989.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375714111, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:47 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Professor Yang, a respected teacher of literature at a provincial Chinese university, begins to accuse his family of heinous acts after he has a stroke, and the young woman caring for him, who is also engaged to his son, must decide if his ramblings are true or not.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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