Ocean of words: army stories

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Zoland Books, 1996 - Fiction - 205 pages
16 Reviews
Twelve stories describe the experiences of Chinese officers and soldiers stationed along the Chinese-Russian border

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User Review  - SeriousGrace - LibraryThing

Ocean of Words is made up of twelve short stories, all centered around Chinese soldiers on the brink of war with Russia in the early 1970s. In every story there is a Chinese soldier wrestling with ... Read full review

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It is the early 1970's and China and Russia are on the brink of war. The collection of short stories follows various Chinese soldiers who are near the border with Russia, and what they went through in that harrowing time. The most pointed story is the last in which a studious young soldier is nearly bankrupted by not being entered into the Communist Party. He could not get a job if that was the case. A grizzled old Director who has taken a shining to the young man helps him out. There are numerous references to life in China at that time, when Communism was still young and some remembered Old China, with its warlords and constant war.
Very well written, with a simple style that I try to employ in my writings. Jin does not try to impress the reader or prove his vocabulary is more extensive. Instead he focuses on the story and the characters and it all comes together nicely. The story about Dragon Head and the one of Ocean of Words, a dictionary, were the best. They both had a few characters and Jin switches the view between first and third person throughout by story. It really gave me an impression of the work hard, live for the people, follow the rules and be a good soldier mentality that we Westerners believe is the true Red way. The soldiers going to help harvest peasant's crops and unwilling to take from the villagers is a typical way of life for them. They follow Chairman Mao's rules without question. The theme of the stories over the length of the book was that China, even in it's secretive and hidden dictatorship ways, is changing. The soldiers in the beginning were completely behind following the rules and the book ends with a young soldier who reads illegal novels. The only confusing parts were the names which are confusing to an American because many are similar on the page.
 

Contents

A REPORT I
1
UNCLE PIAOS BIRTHDAY DINNERS
21
LOVE IN THE AIR
30
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of two books of poetry; two collections of stories, Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award in 1997, and Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction in 1996; and In the Pond, a novel. He lives near Atlanta, where he is a professor at Emory University.

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