Under the Red Flag: Stories
Ha Jin. University of Georgia Press, $22.95 (220pp) ISBN 978-0-8203-1939-1
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 emigres. Fear of public humiliation and punishment haunts these 12 tales of small-town political rivalries, marital despair, family clashes and the balance between new and ancient China. Through a series of troubling vignettes, many of which involve sadism (rape, castration, a cuckold's decapitation), 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. At the same time, Jin uses these simple stories to explore larger themes about human relationships and the effect of government on individual lives. Sometimes his allegories are too simple. For all the beauty of Jin's pared-down prose, one sometimes wishes for more of such evocative passages as ""...a line of colorful washing, frozen and sheeny, swaying in the wind like landed kites tied up by children."" (Nov.) FYI: Ha Jin won the 1997 PEN/Hemingway Award and the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction.
Reviewed on: 11/03/1997