The Crazed

By Ha Jin | Pantheon. $24.<br> Reviewed By Tim Dickinson

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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).

The rudderless Jian, meanwhile, soon loses his passion for his studies and spends his afternoons parsing his teacher’s crazed lectures for truths that might help him chart his own course in life. Ultimately, though, The Crazed is a tragedy, and as the novel snaps to a close, personal and national history draws Jian into a Kafka-esque maze. He discovers that life choices he’s been agonizing to make have already been plotted for him, and he gets swept, almost unwittingly, into the bloodbath in Beijing. In the end, Ha Jin suggests, insanity in the face of totalitarianism is not only understandableÑit may be the only reasonable response.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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