About a fortnight ago, I was at Popular Bookstore when I came across four books that piqued my interest and I ended up buying them. Two of the books, “The Bridegroom” and “The Crazed”, are written by Ha Jin, the National Book Award-winning Chinese-American author for the novel “Waiting.” The third book is “Chinese Cinderella” by Adeline Yen Mah, a memoir of her life as an unwanted daughter in China. The fourth book is the Ernest Hemmingway classic “The Old Man and the Sea’” that won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
I have just finished reading Ha Jin’s “The Bridegroom”, a collection of twelve comical and moving short stories that span China’s movement towards capitalism, laying bare the ironies of tyranny in all its form. All the twelve stories–three of which have been selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories—are set in Muji City in contemporary China.
These 12 stories are told through spare prose penetrated by insight and a fine sense of irony. The people of Muji City live on the cusp of a great cultural and economic change after the end of the Cultural Revolution. The repressive years of Maoist re-education give way to a new and sometimes confusing set of circumstances as capitalism starts to stake a place of its own.
As the great majority of people are still working in state-owned industries, politics is inseparable from the details of everyday life. The characters in these stories struggle to make a living, coping with government bureaucracy and the occasional intrusion of communist party officials into their domestic affairs.
I can honestly say that Ha Jin has an eye for detail and great storytelling talent. ”The Bridegroom” is a genuine pleasure to read.