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War Trash is an engaging, exciting, and depressing account of life in a US army POW camp during the Korean war. At the beginning of the war, the protagonist finds himself fighting for a cause for which he cares little--and then again after being captured. In this book, Ha Jin vividly and masterfully portrays life in a POW camp. But much more importantly, he delves into the psyches and personalities of war prisoners, and examines the personalities that support nationalism and communism. I highly recommend War Trash, especially for its insight into the politics of revolution and national rebirth.
Publishers Weekly, 2004-08-02 Jin (Waiting; The Crazed; etc.) applies his steady gaze and stripped-bare storytelling to the violence and horrifying political uncertainty of the Korean War in this brave, complex and politically timely work, the story of a reluctant soldier trying to survive a POW camp and reunite with his family. Armed with reams of research, the National Book Award winner aims to give readers a tale that is as much historical record as examination of personal struggle. After his division is decimated by superior American forces, Chinese "volunteer" Yu Yuan, an English-speaking clerical officer with a largely pragmatic loyalty to the Communists, rejects revolutionary martyrdom and submits to capture. In the POW camp, his ability to communicate with the Americans thrusts him to the center of a disturbingly bloody power struggle between two factions of Chinese prisoners: the pro-Nationalists, led in part by the sadistic Liu Tai-an, who publicly guts and dissects one of his enemies; and the pro-Communists, commanded by the coldly manipulative Pei Shan, who wants to use Yu to save his own political skin. An unofficial fighter in a foreign war, shameful in the eyes of his own government for his failure to die, Yu can only stand and watch as his dreams of seeing his mother and fianc?e again are eviscerated in what increasingly looks like a meaningless conflict. The parallels with America's current war on terrorism are obvious, but Jin, himself an ex-soldier, is not trying to make a political statement. His gaze is unfiltered, camera-like, and the images he records are all the more powerful for their simple honesty. It is one of the enduring frustrations of Jin's work that powerful passages of description are interspersed with somewhat wooden dialogue, but the force of this story, painted with starkly melancholy longing, pulls the reader inexorably along. Agent, Lane Zachary at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Oct. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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