Literature, Reviews

Ha Jin on creating Chinese culture

jacket image
The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an interesting review of The Writer as Migrant—the latest book from award winning poet, novelist, and Chinese expat, Ha Jin. Consisting of a series of essays that explore the significance of writing outside of one’s homeland and in a foreign language, the book focuses not only on the author’s own experience but also considers those of other famous exiles—like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Chinese novelist Lin Yutang—examining how each grapples “with issues of identity and tradition,” and their capacity to act as sounding boards for the voices of their native countries. From the review:

In the preface to Between Silences, his first book of poetry, published in 1990, Ha Jin proclaimed that he spoke for those who suffered and endured, those fooled or ruined by history—a Chinese writer who wrote in English on behalf of the downtrodden Chinese.
Nearly two decades later, Jin says that he has come to see the “silliness of that ambition.…”
“[T]oo much sincerity is a dangerous thing. It can overheat one’s brain,” he drolly notes in his compelling new collection of essays, The Writer as Migrant.…
“Just as a creative writer should aspire to be not a broker but a creator of culture, a great novel does not only present a culture but also makes culture; such a work does not only bring news of the world but also evokes the reader’s empathy and reminds him of his own existential condition.”

Read the rest of the review on the San Francisco Chronicle‘s companion website,