‘Waiting’ By Ha Jin

waitingThough short, Waiting moves slowly, working by accretion. Changes and revelations are not stated, except towards the end, but that doesn’t it stop from lovingly, subtly depicting the changes that occurred in China between the sixties and eighties.

The title comes from an unambitious doctor waiting to be able to divorce his wife (a peasant; the marriage having been arranged by his parents) so that he can marry his girlfriend. He’s finally able to… but only after eighteen years (a complicated quirk, apparently, of the law at the time).

The revelation is that the protagonist, Lin, is passive and he starts conversing with himself, suggesting that he waited for so long (no sex, incidentally) because it was easier than actually being with another person (in a real, paired up relationship).

But it is more about the small details about life and the passage of time. Events that I, as an outsider, assume to be earth shattering, like the Cultural Revolution, hardly happened for them in their military hospital serving a mid-sized city.

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