Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Like Waiting, Ha Jin's 1999 National Book Award-winning novel about a Red Army doctor who battles 18 years of bureaucratic indifference to obtain a contested divorce, The Crazed is a novel about shunted possibilities. But instead of tracing a broad arc of history, this deceptively small book zeroes in on the spring of 1989, at a public university far from Beijing, where the student uprising in Tiananmen Square is coming slowly to a boil.
For most of The Crazed, that impending history is no more than an undercurrent to the quiet story of Jian, a Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature who should be studying for his exams but instead finds himself caring for his stroke-addled adviser. The bedridden mentor reveals his own story through tormented ramblings that hint at great suffering (at the hands of Cultural Revolutionaries and back-stabbing colleagues) and frustrated ambitions (as a husband marooned in a loveless marriage and a scholar constrained by the dictates of Party politics).