Ocean of Words
By Ha Jin
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375702068, 222pp.)
Publication Date: July 28, 1998
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Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award
The place is the chilly border between Russia and China. The time is the early 1970s when the two giants were poised on the brink of war. And the characters in this thrilling collection of stories are Chinese soldiers who must constantly scrutinize the enemy even as they themselves are watched for signs of the fatal disease of bourgeois liberalism.
In Ocean of Words, the Chinese writer Ha Jin explores the predicament of these simple, barely literate men with breathtaking concision and humanity. From amorous telegraphers to a pugnacious militiaman, from an inscrutable Russian prisoner to an effeminate but enthusiastic recruit, Ha Jin's characters possess a depth and liveliness that suggest Isaac Babel's Cossacks and Tim O'Brien's GIs. Ocean of Words is a triumphant volume, poignant, hilarious, and harrowing.
"A compelling collection of stories, powerful in their unity of theme and rich in their diversity of styles."--New York Times Book Review
"Extraordinary...[These stories are shot through with wit and offer glimpses of human motivation that defy retelling...Read them all."--Boston Globe
"An exceptional new talent, capable of wringing rich surprises out of austere materials."--Portland Oregonian
Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of the internationally bestselling novel Waiting, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Award, and War Trash, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize; the story collections The Bridegroom, which won the Asian American Literary Award, Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award; the novels The Crazed and In the Pond; and three books of poetry. His latest novel, A Free Life is his first novel set in the United States. He lives in the Boston area and is a professor of English at Boston University.War Trash, The Crazed, The Bridegroom, Waiting, In the Pond, and Ocean of Words are available in paperback from Vintage Books.
"Extraordinary.... [Ha Jin's] laconic, luminouse prose makes Ocean of Words a nearly flawless treasure." ?Chicago Tribune
"A compelling collection of stories, powerful in their unity of theme and rich in their diversity of styles." ?The New York Times Book Review
"Extraordinary.... [These stories are] shot through with wit and offer glimpses of human motivation that defy retelling.... Read them all." ?Boston Globe
"An exceptional new talent, capable of wringing rich surprises out of austere materials." ?Portland Oregonian