In the Pond Background

In the Pond Background

In the Pond is the first novel written by Chinese-American author Ha Jin. It tells the story of one man's struggle against the Chinese system of oppression; an episodic novel centering on one central character, Shao Bin, the novel expresses many of the author's own feelings about his country of birth. A worker in a fertilizer factory, Shao Bin was constantly looked over and denied a decent apartment by the corrupt plant managers who never put him on the list of families who were entitled to better housing. His struggle for justice forces him to go up against the system but ultimately leads him to Beijing and a position he can be proud of.

The view of the communist regime in China held by the book's central character is also the view held by the novel's author. Ha Jin is an unlikely novelist; born Xuefel Jin, in China, in 1956, he was only fourteen when his education was interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, and when he became a soldier in the People's Liberation Army he was basically illiterate. Teaching himself to read by studying the dictionary, he decided to return to formal education and eventually pursue a doctorate at Brandeis University, which brought him to America. Watching the massacre of protesters in Tiannenmen Square from the USA he decided to use his talent as a writer to highlight the systemic oppression in China and this, his first novel, was well received. Subsequent novels, Waiting and War Trash, both received the PEN/Faulkner Award. This is the most well-known of his novels despite being the least awarded, and helped to put a human face on the suffering of the people in China.

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