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Under the Red Flag: Stories

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  280 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction, Under the Red Flag features twelve stories which take place during China's Cultural Revolution--stories which display the earnestness and grandeur of human folly and, in a larger sense, form a moral history of a time and a place.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Steerforth (first published January 1st 1997)
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Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction
6th out of 60 books — 7 voters
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Best Books About China
298th out of 417 books — 325 voters

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Community Reviews

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I don't know exactly what to think of this collection. Some of the stories were really blockish and felt cobbled together from left over ideas. Sometimes there were certain parts of stories that have just stayed with me: Like the unhappy bride who throws herself into a well, the pigs crashing through the outhouse, or feasting on top of a great mountain overlooking the town. Some of were also pretty funny as well. I liked this in the overall, but something prevented me from liking it as much as I ...more
Fred Daly
The writing style is a little flat, but the stories in this collection are interesting. There's a lot of sex and violence, often together, so most of the stories are not teachable.
Matteo Cavelier
The premise and tone of Ha Jin’s stories are interesting, playing on conceptions of change and progress in a small Chinese town. Nevertheless, the style can seem dry and occasionally monotonous. As far as spare contemporary Chinese writers are concerned, Ha Jin is not unique.

Nevertheless, some stories are more compelling. “A Decade” ties together a string of the speaker’s memory together in a seemingly unrelated way, but eventually using stories-within-stories to bring up ideas of nostalgia, pas
Finally, a book I really didn't like of Ha Jin's and stopped my obsession.
Ashley perry
well written. very depressing.
I like Ha Jin for the simplicity of his stories. The characters tend to have basic motivations that are easily comprehensible. The plots of the stories also seem basically simple. They are neither fairy-tale's nor determined to show a malevolent fate. What's successful is that he is able to make these stories interesting, and even to take unexpected turns within the simple framework.

Obviously some of the interest is generated by cultural difference, both the Chinese culture in general, and the s
Roger DeBlanck
Ha Jin’s award-winning first short story collection examines the constraints and oppressive measures the communist government in China inflicts on the people. The stories cover themes and issues that are touching, shocking, heartrending, and immediate in their depiction of simple people living under the constant surveillance of a government that seeks to dictate their every move and thought. Jin makes clear the ideology of communist China: if it’s not good for the state, it must be eliminated or ...more
I found this book to be strange but interesting, since the author began his tale by telling us a short story of how prositution was consider illegal. The "new country" which is the Communist China began to change so many things were expanding. The poor farmers were still poor but the rich was thrown into jail for sent to be reform as peasants and farmers.

Ha Jin had told a ale of hardship and woe that appeared during the Communist Revolution. People were dying and losing their spouse or were sent
Each story on its own is well-written and powerful. All of the stories express the conflicts of villagers living in communist China. Most of the stories are gruesome and violent and involve bad fortune or outside forces imposing on individual lives. While these common threads make Under the Red Flag a logical collection, when read all at once they sometimes feel a bit formulaic. The reader is not surprised when things don't end well for the characters. My thought just now is that it becomes a bi ...more
David Marxer
Reading any of Ha Jin's short stories it becomes no surprise he won the Pen/Hemingway Prize or any prize with Hemingway in mind because Jin's blunt,direct, you're right here with the charcters now reminds me of Papa Hemingway best short work. Even a general fiction reader who is not familiar with the history of China or the Chinese people and their everyday customs in rural China will enjoy the stories as much as someone who does because all of Jin's charcters are, most of all, human.
For my part
amazing in my world that the book ends on page 207, such an auspicious number in my forlorn life. meaning that it means nothing to anybody except me. but this book has many stories to entertain the modern reader and enlighten the Americans who actually care about human relations meaning that this man came from China and is now an American and he writes so incredibly well that I feel lucky to have found him.

How did I do that?

Not sure but that doesn't matter.

Read him if you can. Enlighten yoursel
violence and vulnarability of human nature well depicted. Sex and violence scenes included.
I've slowly been working my way through all the Flannery O'Connor Award winners; this was the first I didn't care for. Apart from providing a mildly interesting glimpse into another culture, this collection didn't have much else going for it. The writing didn't seem to have the grace and elegance as others that have won the award.
Jan 08, 2008 Robyn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Robyn by: Heidi Walters/FoodFightBookClub
Under the Red Flag is a group of short stories from author Ha Jin about a village under the rule of Communism and the hand of the People's Liberation Army in China. I remember that these Honor driven stories are violent and at times dark. While my particular recollections of these stories are a bit vague, I do remember liking the collection. I am intrigued by social/cultural manifestations under rigid social, political and cultural restrictions and the stories are that precisely.
Aug 02, 2014 Tony added it
"Resurrection" alone proves Ha Jin a true great Chinese writer.
Read this while working design hack work at the University of Georgia Press. I used to read all of their books as I scanned in photos, made copies and various other grunt work. I was completely taken aback by how powerful these stories are. Jin manages to chronicle the horrors of the Cultural Revolution in an incredibly beautiful way. I'm not sure how else to explain it. It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.
Jun 05, 2008 Will marked it as to-read
While reading 1997's Pushcart Prize collection, I came across Ha Jin's short story "Man-to-Be," which is a surprisingly beautiful and empathetic parable about a militiaman who attempts to participate in the gang rape of a local woman but loses his nerve after looking her in the eyes. If it is any indication as to the quality of the other stories in this book, then Ha Jin should be on everybody's reading list.
I enjoyed this book as I did his other, The Bridgegroom: Stories. It's an easy-to-follow read, simple, composed of several unrelated short stories. Although pretty shocking and depressing with its upfront sexual violence and controversial social behavior, I did like the shock value and the flow of the read. A great travel book, something easy to put down and pick back up again with much interruption.
Jan 15, 2008 Judy added it
Tthis is a fine collection of short
stories by one of my favorite Chinese
authors. He writes from the standpoint
of a person living in a village during
the cultural revolution.
Many of the stories are disturbing and
I believe are meant to be so. Tthey
give a hint of the mindset of a person
during that period of time.
I recommend it.
Jun 09, 2008 Nathan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bearers of Red Flags
As a former communist, I always enjoy coming across books that prove me exactly how wrong that I was. These short stories depict the degradation and brain-washing that accompanied the great Chairmans reign. I found each story to be quite interesting and, at times, funny. Nothing says good times likes learning through short stories.
The first two stories made me really nervous -- one about stoning a woman as a whore and one about a man asking other men to rape his wife.

The rest of the stories were really good, with subject matter that didn't disturb me.

Read this while in Hong Kong.
Good, not great. Ha Jin is one of my favorite writers, but this is not quite as cohesive as his other short story collections. The quality of the stories is a bit inconsistent.
Oct 16, 2008 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Beth by: Barb Stedman
This book is simplicity itself. There are no gimmicks or theatrics here. The writing is lucid; the ideas luminous.
timon mcphearson
this is the first ha hin book i read. incredible look into china's past. as educational as it is amazing.
Some of the stories were a bit disturbing, but all were well-written and thought provoking.
Jul 05, 2013 Velvetink marked it as to-read
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Pat added it
Mar 30, 2015
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Betül Pehlivanlı marked it as to-read
Mar 29, 2015
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Ha Jin is the pen name of Xuefei Jin, a novelist, poet, short story writer, and Professor of English at Boston University. Ha Jin writes in English about China, a political decision post-Tiananmen Square.
More about Ha Jin...
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“We ate away, reminiscing about our victories over the enemies from different streets and villages and competing with each other in casting curses. A few golden butterflies and dragonflies were fluttering around us. The afternoon air was warm and clean, and the town below us seemed like a green harbor full of white sails.” 3 likes
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