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The Writer as Migrant

The Writer as Migrant

Автором Ha Jin

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The Writer as Migrant

Автором Ha Jin

оценки:
3/5 (2 оценки)
Длина:
99 pages
Издано:
May 15, 2009
ISBN:
9780226399904
Формат:
Книге

Описание

As a teenager during China’s Cultural Revolution, Ha Jin served as an uneducated soldier in the People’s Liberation Army. Thirty years later, a resident of the United States, he won the National Book Award for his novel Waiting, completing a trajectory that has established him as one of the most admired exemplars of world literature.
            Ha Jin’s journey raises rich and fascinating questions about language, migration, and the place of literature in a rapidly globalizing world—questions that take center stage in The Writer as Migrant, his first work of nonfiction. Consisting of three interconnected essays, this book sets Ha Jin’s own work and life alongside those of other literary exiles, creating a conversation across cultures and between eras. He employs the cases of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Chinese novelist Lin Yutang to illustrate the obligation a writer feels to the land of his birth, while Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov—who, like Ha Jin, adopted English for their writing—are enlisted to explore a migrant author’s conscious choice of a literary language. A final essay draws on V. S. Naipaul and Milan Kundera to consider the ways in which our era of perpetual change forces a migrant writer to reconceptualize the very idea of home. Throughout, Jin brings other celebrated writers into the conversation as well, including W. G. Sebald, C. P. Cavafy, and Salman Rushdie—refracting and refining the very idea of a literature of migration.
            Simultaneously a reflection on a crucial theme and a fascinating glimpse at the writers who compose Ha Jin’s mental library, The Writer as Migrant is a work of passionately engaged criticism, one rooted in departures but feeling like a new arrival.
Издано:
May 15, 2009
ISBN:
9780226399904
Формат:
Книге

Об авторе

HA JIN is a professor of English at Boston University. His books include A Good Fall, A Free Life, and War Trash. He is a Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has also received such honors as the National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, and PEN/Hemingway Award.

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  • (3/5)
    These are three essays on the notion of migration for the writer, mostly explained through other writers such as Nabokov, Conrad, Kundera and Naipaul.In the first essay, The Spokesman & the Tribe, Jin explores the balance between the individual and the collective, and asks to what extent a writer can 'speak for' his nation or people, especially if he has abandoned them to live in a new country. I was interested in his initial desire as a young writer to write "on behalf of the downtrodden Chinese". He makes it clear that he later abandoned this position, but I would have liked to know more about how and why.In fact, throughout the whole book I would have liked to know more about Ha Jin's thoughts on migration. His journey, after all, was an interesting one - from an uneducated teenage soldier in the Chinese army during the Cultural Revolution to a professor at Boston University and author of five novels, a couple of which I've read and greatly enjoyed. I would have liked him to draw on his own experience of migration, but he does so only rarely, in small glimpses like the one mentioned above. Mostly what we have is a survey of other writers and their thoughts on migration - quite interesting, but for me ultimately unsatisfying because there was no clear overall argument or point of view to draw the whole thing together.In any case, it was interesting to learn about Solzhenitsyn's life in America, how he lived in rural Vermont but never really settled, never took citizenship, was always waiting to go back to Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union he got his chance, but the interesting thing was that after moving back home, he struggled to speak effectively on behalf of the new Russia, as he had spoken on behalf of the old while in exile. His later books Russia in Collapse (1998) and Two Hundred Years Together (2001) were coldly received, and he was seen as out of touch. Even his radio show was cancelled due to low ratings. Ha Jin's point is that he was loved for his earlier masterpieces, but even that did not give him the right to speak on behalf of the people - when his views no longer matched theirs, they rejected him.The second essay, The Language of Betrayal, deals with the decision to write in another language. Again, Jin does not speak of his own decision to write in English and whether he feels this is a betrayal -- instead we hear about Joseph Conrad being criticised for abandoning the Polish language, and Nabokov's difficulty writing poetry in English even though he was a master of prose.An Individual's Homeland explores the difficulty of returning home -- the way that Odysseus initially didn't recognise Ithaka when he returned after his twenty years of exile, because both he and the land itself had changed. As Jin says, "One cannot return to the same land as the same person." He talks of using art to survive, as the character Max Ferber does in W.G. Sebald's book The Emigrants. He ends by referring to the Greek poet CP Cavafy, who positions 'Ithaka' as a destination for life's journey, but not necessarily a return to the homeland. The homeland becomes a part of the past that can be used "to facilitate our journeys".As you'd expect from an English professor, the analysis of writers and books here is astute and interesting. I just got the feeling sometimes that he was talking about other writers to avoid talking about himself. Using literary examples is a good idea, but I'd have preferred them to be used to support a clearer argument from Ha Jin himself, drawing on his own experiences to give us his unique, original perspective instead of a summary of other people's.
  • (3/5)
    Ha Jin is one of my favorite writers. He writes funny and ironic stories about Mainland Chinese caught between communism and capitalism, how these two great ideas weighed down ordinary people's lives and how they sought to survive in spite of the odds.
    In this slim volume, Ha Jin reflects on the experiences of migrant writers, including exiles, trying to reconstruct their homelands and navigating issues of loyalty and betrayal. He also has something to say about writers like him who not only abandoned the homeland, but jettisoned the language as well (Ha Jin, like the Polish Joseph Conrad, writes in English). The book reflects on the great migrant writers Conrad, Solzhenitsyn, Naipaul, Nabokov, Lin Yutang, James Joyce, CP Cavafy and Homer.