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Preview — War Trash by Ha Jin
This PEN/Faulkner award-winning novel is the fictional memoir of Yu Yuan, a POW at several camps and a frequent pawn between the pro-Nationalists and the Communists. It's a dense read with some serious history and military strategy. The scale of human s ...more
Critics agree that War Trash, by the National Book Award-winning author, has an unusual tone. Yu's methodical, even pedantic storytelling of the Chinese soldiers taken prisoner by U.N. forces struck some critics as dull; many complained of slow patches. However, several readers praised this very slowness. To them, Yu's is the soft voice of a man who wants to record a painful past without sensationalism. The New York Times Book Review even called Yu "one of the most fully realized characters to e...more
War Trash is set in the Korean War. Its main character is a young Chinese man, a graduate of that country's most prominent military academy, at a time when the Korean War has just started. He's drafted to be part of the Chinese forces s ...more
I thought it was an interesting choice by the author to write such a sympathetic character as the narrator of a pseudo-memoir. If this character is truly fictitious, then the author has all the freedom in ...more
I found this novel to be interesting chiefly because of its point of view. The horrors of war recounted here are unfortunately commonplace and the sit ...more
The diplomats meeting in Geneva in 1929 hoped to enshrine protections for prisoners of war, but despite their careful enumerations, the agreement they cobbled together couldn't anticip ...more
The opening chapters actually involve some fighting in Korea, but these are sparsely detailed. Yu Yuan isn't much of a soldier - nor, really, are any of the so-called People's Volunteers, but they are th ...more
After Mao takes over China, newly-Communist Chinese soldiers fight in the Korean War as a "volunteer army" (so as not to officially implicate China). When captured by the Americans, the Chinese are offered the chance either to go back to China or to go to Taiwan with the Nationalists (the party overthrown by Mao and the Communists).
This is not your standard war prisoner narrative; this is the story of two separate guerrilla insurgencies operating from inside POW compounds. It's fascinating to follow the development of culture, propaganda, and bureaucracy within the Communist and Nationalist prisons, and to see that (as with any militar ...more
Second, at times it feels like the main character just happened to experience ever single possible event that occurred in Chinese/North Korean POW camps during the Korean war, owing to an author who really just wanted to cram a lot of the historical stuff in there.
Still, while the book remains fiction, it's an interesting start to learning about the Chinese side of the confl ...more
It wasn't my usual idea of great literature. Written as if it was a memoir by a Chinese veteran of the Korean War; it really did seem authentic. It had all the excitement and emotion of well-written history (I find history exciting and moving, ...more
Initially, I thought the writing was a bit off, I couldn't put my finger on it, bu ...more
"Some men would not shoot their draft animals, but afraid other might kill them for meat, they set them free. Some of the horses and mules wouldn't go away and followed their former keeps to this shore."
"A large mole kept moving near the edge of Chaolin's left eye as he spoke."
"We were all like hungry ghosts, fearful but unable to stop wandering around."
"I hadn't come across a book for half a year. the deprivation had whetted my appetit ...more
A college graduate student, Yu Yuan has an uneasy relationship with the communist leadership in the camps, but his knowledge of English makes him indispensable as an interpreter and he witnesses key events and decisions.
The first few chapters describe the poor preparation of Yuan's unit, disaster in an attack pushed too far, and a desperate atte ...more
I never knew much about the Korean war, so there were things to learn on that front, plus there were a lot of interesting things about how the Communist Chinese POWs were distinct ...more