Ha Jin

Ha Jin was born in Liaoning, China, and served six years in the People's Army. In 1985 he emigrated to the United States. His novel Waiting, which won him the National Book Award in 1999, and the PEN/ Faulkner in 2000, was based on his experiences during his five-year service in the Red Army. He was awarded the PEN/ Faulkner again in 2005 for War Trash.

In addition to the National Book award, Ha Jin received the Pen/Hemingway award for his first collection of short stories, Ocean of Words, and the Flannery O’Connor prize for his second, Under the Red Flag. In 2005 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His latest book is A Free Life. He teaches at Boston University.

"Extraordinary...These stories are shot through with wit and offer glimpses of human motivation that defy retelling...Read them all." —The Boston Globe


Ocean of Words

Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award

The place is the chilly border between Russia and China. The time is the early 1970s when the two giants were poised on the brink of war. And the characters in this thrilling collection of stories are Chinese soldiers who must constantly scrutinize the enemy even as they themselves are watched for signs of the fatal disease of bourgeois liberalism.

In Ocean of Words, the Chinese writer Ha Jin explores the predicament of these simple, barely literate men with breathtaking concision and humanity. From amorous telegraphers to a pugnacious militiaman, from an inscrutable Russian prisoner to an effeminate but enthusiastic recruit, Ha Jin's characters possess a depth and liveliness that suggest Isaac Babel's Cossacks and Tim O'Brien's GIs. Ocean of Words is a triumphant volume, poignant, hilarious, and harrowing.

(Vintage, July 1998)