The Banished Immortal: Book summary and reviews of The Banished Immortal by Ha Jin

The Banished Immortal

A Life of Li Bai (Li Po)

by Ha Jin

The Banished Immortal by Ha Jin X
The Banished Immortal by Ha Jin
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2019
    320 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

A narratively driven, deeply human biography of the 8th century poet, Li Bai - also known as Li Po - one of the most beloved poets ever to emerge from China.

With the instincts of a master novelist, Ha Jin draws on a wide range of historical and literary sources to weave the life story of Li Bai (701-762), whose poems - shaped by Daoist thought and characterized by their passion, romance, and lust for life - rang throughout the Tang Dynasty and continue to be celebrated today. Jin follows Li Bai from his birth on China's western frontier through his travels as a young man seeking a place among the empire's civil servants, his wanderings allowing him to hone his poetic craft, share his verses, and win him friends and admirers along the way. In his later years, he becomes swept up in a military rebellion that alters the course of China, and his death is surrounded by speculation and legend that continues to be spun to this day.

The Banished Immortal is an extraordinary portrait of a poet who both transcended his time and was shaped by it, and whose ability to live, love, and mourn without reservation produced some of the most enduring verses in the world.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Jin's polished biography will give a wider audience access to the politics and beauty of a major Chinese poet." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Libraries building Chinese literature collections will love this book. Essential for academic libraries and recommended for large poetry holdings." - Library Journal

"Jin dutifully explores Li Bai's status as a major, high-spirited poet but with little of the vigor of his subject." - Kirkus

"This is a fluently told story, mysterious yet familiar, tragic yet sometimes comical. Ha Jin is a master storyteller." - Robert Pinsky

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Author Information

Ha Jin Author Biography

Xuefei Jin, who writes under the pseudonym Ha Jin, was born in 1956 in Liaoning Province in northern China. His father was a military officer. In 1969, at only 14 years of age, Ha Jin joined the People's Liberation Army based at the northeastern border between China and the former Soviet Union. While in the army he began teaching himself middle and high-school courses. After his military service ended, he taught himself English while working the night shift as a railroad telegrapher in Jiamusi, a remote frontier city in the Northeast. During this time he followed the English learner's program, hoping "someday to read Friedrich Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 in the English original."

In 1977, when colleges reopened after the Cultural Revolution, he passed ...

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