49 pages • 1 hour readHa Jin
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“Comrade Policeman, your duty is to keep order, but you purposely tortured us common citizens. Why violate the law you are supposed to enforce?”
In “Saboteur,” a railroad officer harasses a professor and then charges him with the crime of sabotage. This quote points out the hypocrisy of the situation, while also suggesting that the way in which the policeman, and not the citizen, is the true saboteur. The policeman sabotages not only the citizen’s trust of the state, but the laws he must enforce.
“I hereby admit that on July 13 I disrupted public order at Muji Train Station, and that I refused to listen to reason when the railroad police issued their warning. Thus I myself am responsible for my arrest.”
This passage is from the statement that the professor must sign that admits his crime of sabotage. The author of the statement is not the professor, but the policemen, writing from the point of view of the professor. The language of the statement, and the fact that someone wrote it on behalf of the professor, demonstrates the degree of control that the Chinese Communist state has over its citizens.
“A jolt from below shot him upward and tossed him out of the room. With a crash he landed in a puddle, covered with bits of glass. Meanwhile, a chimney tumbled down the roof and crashed to the ground; a large brick hit his left wrist and smashed his Seagull watch.”
This quote describes the crucial moment in “Alive” when the earthquake strikes and leaves Guhan with amnesia. It serves as a solid demonstration of Ha Jin’s skill in writing action in clear, direct sentences without unnecessary flourishes or adverbs. Rather than dwelling on Guhan’s pain and sensations, Ha Jin focuses on the details that surround him during a chaotic moment.
By Ha Jin