From the National Book Award-winning author of Waiting, a new collection of short fiction that confirms Ha Jin's reputation as a master storyteller.
Each of The Bridegroom's twelve stories--three of which have been selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories--takes us back to Muji City in contemporary China, the setting of Waiting. It is a world both exotic and disarmingly familiar, one in which Chinese men and women meet with small epiphanies and muted triumphs, leavening their lives of quiet desperation through subtle insubordination and sometimes crafty resolve.
In the title story, a seemingly model husband joins a secret men's literary club and finds himself arrested for the "bourgeois crime" of homosexuality. "Alive" centers on an official who loses his memory in an earthquake and lives happily for months as a simple worker; when he suddenly remembers who he is, he finds that his return to his old life proves inconvenient for everyone. In "A Tiger-Fighter Is Hard to Find," a television crew's inept attempt to film a fight scene with a live Siberian tiger lands their lead actor in a mental hospital, convinced that he is the mythical tiger-fighter Wu Song.
Reversals, transformations, and surprises abound in these assured stories, as Ha Jin seizes on the possibility that things might not be as they seem. Parables for our times--with a hint of the reckless and the absurd that we have come to expect from Ha Jin--The Bridegroom offers tales both mischievous and wise.
A Tiger-Fighter Is Hard to Find
We were overwhelmed by a letter from the provincial governor's office. It praised our TV series Wu Song Beat the Tiger. The governor was impressed by the hero, who fought the tiger single-handedly and punched it to death. The letter read: "We ought to create more heroic characters of this kind as role models for the revolutionary masses to follow. You, writers and artists, are the engineers of the human soul. You have a noble task on your hands, which is to strengthen people's hearts and instill into them the spirit that fears neither heaven nor earth." But the last paragraph of the letter pointed out a weakness in the key episode, which was that the tiger looked fake and didn't present an authentic challenge to the hero. The governor wondered if we could improve this section, so that our province might send the series to Beijing before the end of the year.
That evening we had a meeting and decided to reshoot the tiger-fighting scene. ...
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