War Trash by Ha Jin

It is pure coincidence that I started to read War Trash, by Ha Jin, just as I was getting ready to study about the Korean War. Although it is a work of fiction, you get the basic dose of information needed to have an overall opinion about the conflict.

Yu Yuan, the main character, studied at Huangpu Academy, an important institution for Kuomintang. From the start we are immersed in a world barely recovering from a civil war, when the communists managed to get control of mainland China and established a Socialist State. Yu Yuan like many others, although in a lesser extent, had difficulty accepting the new system, but did not have choice, he went with the flow so to speak. He did not care to much about the communists, but had socialist sympathies, he only wanted to live a normal life.

The start of the Korean War did not involve China from the beginning, but soon, seeing that the communists from Korea were loosing the battle, they joined along with the Soviet Union in fear that the Americans will come after the Chinese next. This conflict was one of ideologies, fought with the gun not with the mind. Most of the book describes how life as a POW (prisoner of war) was. Many Chinese and Koreans had this fate. The Chinese especially gone through a weird situation, two camps were formed, the Communists and the Nationalists. Its easy to guess what this meant. Many soldiers and officers sent to fight wanted to go to Taiwan, where Chiang Kay-shek managed to form a government and an independent country controlled by nationalist forces. The reason for this is that they have been educated in nationalist schools before the Civil War.

Conflicts appear in this camps that originated from blind faith in ideologies and raising them to the rank of religion. Yu Yuan soon gets important roles to play, mainly as translator and representative. He knew English and this made him an important pawn in the game, so important that leaders from both camps needed him. Knowledge is power. He did not have the fanaticism characteristic to many others, he only wanted to have a normal life without useless conflicts. In his free time he pursued activities like reading and improving his English, while others gambled and wasted their time basically.

Yu Yuan is really a great character compared to all the others, he managed to stay loyal to his heart and mind through all the hard times. I must stop here, the reason why people make books is for others to read them so I think this short review will convince you to read this marvelous novel.

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

You convinced me and I want to say: what an amazing book. Yuan is for me not only a personage, but a way to see life through the benefits of knowledge and the power of the consciousness, that release man when he has to face the disaster of the war. Your review is the best! Congratulations!