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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 Chines 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 knowabout how and why.In fact, throughout the whole book I would have liked to knowabout 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 A very interesting book about the writing of writers who left their native countries and in different ways managed to exist in their adopted ones How much do they want to come back to their home countries And what is home by the way To what extent do they feel they belong to the countries where they were born and to what extent do they feel they belong to the countries where they live How do they define themselves and their writing between their present and the past that never goes away A very interesting book about the writing of writers who left their native countries and in different ways managed to exist in their adopted ones How much do they want to come back to their home countries And what is home by the way To what extent do they feel they belong to the countries where they were born and to what extent do they feel they belong to the countries where they live How do they define themselves and their writing between their present and the past that never goes away What language s do they employ for their writing, why, and how does it affect their writing In less than 100 pages, Ha Jin, who is a writer in exile himself, gives his answers to these and other questions, unveiling some hidden layers of the lives and writing of some well know authors such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Lin Yutang, Vladimir Nabokov, Joseph Conrad, Shiva Naipaul, and Milan Kundera Beautiful and poetic analyses in story telling style He makes me want to try reading all of the writers he mentions in this book, and himself as well An easy to read for every average reader without having to know anything about famous writers and the art of writing I must admit that reading this book gave me a somewhat melancholy feeling as someone who has long written and lived with a certain sense of estrangement from my roots 1 This experience is surely not unique, as the author manages to discuss a great many people who managed to write and write very well despite being cut off from their native roots, from Dante to Nabokov, and from Joseph Conrad to V.S Naipal, all of which are writers I am familiar with and generally fond of The experience of I must admit that reading this book gave me a somewhat melancholy feeling as someone who has long written and lived with a certain sense of estrangement from my roots 1 This experience is surely not unique, as the author manages to discuss a great many people who managed to write and write very well despite being cut off from their native roots, from Dante to Nabokov, and from Joseph Conrad to V.S Naipal, all of which are writers I am familiar with and generally fond of The experience of being an exile carries with it a certain tension about where we belong and who our audience is, and whether it is best to write in our native language or to accommodate ourselves to the language of where we happen to be In my own experience, as a native speaker and writer of English and as someone who started learning Spanish very young as well, I am perfectly content to write in both languages, although I greatly prefer to write in English Not everyone is fortunate enough to have as their native languages major languages, though, and face a deeper problem as they seek to live as writers in the midst of the problems of being cut off from one s homeland.This short book of less than 100 pages is made up of three essays from the author on the problem of the writer as an exile After a short preface the author begins his discussion with a thoughtful examination of the spokesman and the tribe, pointing out that the writer as an exile faces a difficult problem in seeking to speak for a people he no longer lives around, for to abandon one s citizenship or one s native language makes it very difficult to maintain credibility as a spokesmen for one s native people, a problem that Joseph Conrad faced being a writer in English despite being a native Pole, but one that was better navigated, for example, by Solzhenitsyn, who despite his mistreatment ended up maintaining his credibility with the Russian people as a spokesman The second essay takes up the theme of the language of betrayal, again focusing on Joseph Conrad and writers who sought not entirely successfully to distinguish themselves from him as people who wrote literature in English as a second language The third and final essay looks at the nature of an individuals homeland through a discussion of Odysseus Ithaca and its various meanings and implications in contemporary poetry and literature Throughout the author manages to strike a delicate balance between the individual and the collective while pointing out that while a writer cannot help but be moral, there are strong limitations as to the sort of moral change that writers can promote through their writings.What is it that made me sad to read these essays For one, the author himself is an exile, a native Chinese writer who had been a part of the PLA but who managed to become a professor at Boston University as well as a successful writer of Chinese literature, by no means a popular genre of literature in the mainstream American market The author s own personal experiences, and my own experiences as an exile, give this book a poignancy that shows the sense of loss that results from having to make one s way among strangers who do not understand us The author s discussion, for example, of the tragic eponymous hero of Nabokov s Pnin, and the way that he is continually misunderstood by others, is something that strikes a deep chord with me personally I found myself in reading these essays a sense of kinship with those who wrote of the desire to find home and the tension between doing what is best for oneself and also seeking the support and encouragement of others without which writing is not of any profit and of precious little enjoyment Perhaps we may not be alone in being alone, though, and if we are far from home and caught between hopes for the future and looking back to the past, certainly there are others we can relate to, and that makes the journey a less lonely one 1 See, for example Who knew Ha Jin taught at BU The little coincidences.no cohesive review here, just choice comments I love that he quotes Rushdie Roots, I sometimes think, are a conservative myth designed to keep us in places I love how he discusses the dangers of nostalgia At the same time, the beauty and subtlety of the word Ithaka resides in its mythological resonance, which evokes something in the past of the traveler s origin something that has shaped his imagined destination Although he fina Who knew Ha Jin taught at BU The little coincidences.no cohesive review here, just choice comments I love that he quotes Rushdie Roots, I sometimes think, are a conservative myth designed to keep us in places I love how he discusses the dangers of nostalgia At the same time, the beauty and subtlety of the word Ithaka resides in its mythological resonance, which evokes something in the past of the traveler s origin something that has shaped his imagined destination Although he finally reaches Ithaka, his arrival cannot be completely separated from his point of departure, because his journey was affected by the vision of a legendary city whose historical and cultural significance constitutes part of his heritage In this defining nature of the traveler s journey we may reverse the beginning line of East Coker in T.S Eliot s Four Quartets without violating its logic In my end is my beginning In these moments we see how intertwined the exiled writer is with his state of being, which refutes Flannery O Conner s assertion that all good written art should, and is, crafted separate from the personality and attributes of the author While one can appreciate a finely crafted piece of art, it does not resonate with the individual if they cannot connect with the creator Perhaps I just love it because I love books by writers about writing Welty, Maugham , but then again Rushdie, Eliot, and Ha Jin what s not to love A bit heavy if you re not a big literature buff Ha Jin draws on V.S Naipaul, Nabokov, Joyce, and a number of other names to make observations about writing from abroad and writing in a language that is not your native tongue My favorite passage has to be when he rebuts the idea that becoming a writer in another language limits you only to being a writer that can be understood, not playful, as he draws on examples that prove otherwise and demonstrate the unique position exile or expat writers A bit heavy if you re not a big literature buff Ha Jin draws on V.S Naipaul, Nabokov, Joyce, and a number of other names to make observations about writing from abroad and writing in a language that is not your native tongue My favorite passage has to be when he rebuts the idea that becoming a writer in another language limits you only to being a writer that can be understood, not playful, as he draws on examples that prove otherwise and demonstrate the unique position exile or expat writers hold in regard to language Not a long , certainly thought provoking when it comes to language, identity, and movement though the title probably tells you that Ha Jin has become the Chinese writer Americans look to to Know Stuff About China supplanting Chinese American writers like, say, Amy Tan but he speaks writes rather convincingly against this notion in this book s first essay Citing Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Lin Yutang, he argues that actually attempts by writers to be socially engaged or to be a spokesman for their people are ultimately useless The writer should enter history mainly through the avenue of his art In the end, the book ma Ha Jin has become the Chinese writer Americans look to to Know Stuff About China supplanting Chinese American writers like, say, Amy Tan but he speaks writes rather convincingly against this notion in this book s first essay Citing Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Lin Yutang, he argues that actually attempts by writers to be socially engaged or to be a spokesman for their people are ultimately useless The writer should enter history mainly through the avenue of his art In the end, the book manages to be Ha Jin s explanation of his own work without ever claiming to be so In explicating the authors who inspired him, he gets to the heart of why he does what he does, and what is gained and lost when a writer leaves his homeland and mother tongue Worth reading even if you are not familiar with his work, though |READ DOWNLOAD ☩ The Writer as Migrant ♗ 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 Some intriguing ideas I find the second essay the most interesting and useful, while the first is for me annoyingly judgmental too many generalized should and must formulations The third convinced me to read The Odyssey at long last.Unfortunately, the book is filled with grammatical issues, infelicitous phrasings, punctuation errors, and other disturbing distractions Shame on you for your carelessness here, U of Chicago Press highly intelligent, nuanced, esp thoughts on humor in your second language. Why write in the second language and how well can one achieve by writing in the second language.