Saturday, August 18, 2007

Five best: guides to China and its history

Oliver August, author of Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man, selected a five best "guides to China and its history" list for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:
The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

Ha Jin is the master storyteller of modern China, and this is his best book. In the dozen stories collected in "The Bridegroom," he portrays his homeland in exceptionally dark colors. It is a place where anarchic privateering and lawlessness flourish below a surface of authoritarian control. Freebooters and corrupt officials inflict cruelties on the less fortunate, who then turn on one another rather than banding together. Still, Ha Jin's view of his countrymen is intensely affectionate. For three decades, they have faced immense social change, and yet even as their lives are repeatedly upended most people have responded with remarkable good grace. An exception is the man in one of the stories who wants to poison an entire town after being freed from false arrest. For the most part, though, Ha Jin traces the continuing toxic effects of the Cultural Revolution that began under Mao Zedong in the 1960s, when children informed on parents and even the most harmless comment could trigger persecution.
Read about August's other four titles.

--Marshal Zeringue