Summary and book reviews of The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

The Bridegroom

Stories

by Ha Jin

The Bridegroom
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2000, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2001, 240 pages

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Book Summary

Reversals, transformations, and surprises abound in these assured stories. 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.

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. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of The Bridegroom, Ha Jin's latest collection of short fiction.

About this book

With these tales - three of which have been selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories - Ha Jin returns to Muji City, the same provincial city in northern China that was the setting of his National Book Award-winning novel Waiting. The stories take place in contemporary times, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, as the repressive years of Maoist reeducation give way to a new and often confusing set of circumstances. China remains an essentially communist nation, but begins cautiously to open itself to ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly

Ha Jin's spare prose, subtle wit, and surprising plot twists make for a read that is both quick and memorable.

New York Times Book Review

His literary vision, like his subjects thus far, is Chinese, and the English language not his calling but his arbitrary fate. But his eye for detail, his great storytelling talent -- these universal gifts suffuse his work and make 'The Bridegroom' a genuine pleasure.

Library Journal

Jin uses this collection to exhibit his strong writing and storytelling skills with his laconic use of words.

Publisher's Weekly

It's difficult to think of another writer who has captured the conflicting attitudes and desires, and the still-changing conditions of daily life, of post-Cultural Revolution China as well as Ha Jin does in his second collection, which follows his NBA-winning novel, Waiting.

Reader Reviews

Kate

I haven't read the entire book. However, I did read "Saboteur" and it was an excellent literary work. Mr. Chiu does something we all wish we had the guts to do at times. He could be classified as somewhat psychotic. This was a great example...   Read More

Brent Mullins

I disliked this book, because the way some of the stories build up and have a horrible ending. Also I dislike the way the author writes. Sometimes he will say things backwards, or even improper english.

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