Waiting is a 1999 novel by Chinese-American author Ha Jin which won the National Book Award that year. It is based on a true story that Jin heard from his wife when they were visiting her family at an army hospital in China. At the hospital was an army doctor who had waited eighteen years to get a divorce so he could marry his longtime friend, a nurse.
The plot revolves around the fortunes of three people: Lin Kong, the army doctor; his wife Shuyu, whom he has never loved; and the nurse Manna Wu, his girlfriend at the hospital where he works. Beginning in 1963 and stretching over a twenty-year period, Waiting is set against the background of a changing Chinese society. It contrasts city and country life and shows the restrictions on individual freedoms that are a routine part of life under communism. But Waiting is primarily a novel of character. It presents a portrait of a decent but deeply flawed man, Lin Kong, whose life is spoiled by his inability to experience strong emotions and to love wholeheartedly.
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The Famished Road is the Booker Prize-winning novel written by Nigerian author Ben Okri. The novel, published in 1991, follows Azaro, an abiku or spirit child, living in an unnamed, most likely Nigerian, city. The novel employs a unique narrative style incorporating the spirit world with the “real” world in what some have classified as magical realism. Others have labeled it African Traditional Religion realism. Still others choose to simply call the novel fantasy literature. The book exploits the belief in the coexistence of the spiritual and material worlds that is a defining aspect of traditional African life.
The Famished Road is told in the second person from Azaro’s point of view. His life is difficult because he lives in a world where he alone sees the spirits. For the first half of the novel, Azaro acts mainly as an observer, trying to understand who he is and what is happening to him. Later, he grows wiser and closer to his father. Azaro learns to take action at several pivotal points in the story. Where his early point of view is merely as a bystander, he later attaches meaning to seemingly bizarre events
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Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ– Umibe no Kafuka)
is a 2002 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Kafka on the Shore
demonstrates Murakami’s typical blend of popular culture, mundane detail, magical realism, suspense, humor, an involved plot, and potent sexuality. It also features an increased emphasis on Japanese religious traditions, particularly Shinto. The main characters are significant departures from the typical protagonist of a Murakami novel, such as Toru Watanabe of Norwegian Wood
and Toru Okada of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
, who are typically in their 20s or 30s and have rather humdrum personalities. However, many of the same themes re-occur in Kafka on the Shore
as were first developed in these and other previous novels.
The power and beauty of music as a communicative medium is one of the central themes of the novel—the very title comes from a song Kafka is given on a record in the library. Metaphysics is also a central theme of the novel as many of the character’s dialogues and soliloquy are motivated by their inquiry about the nature of the world around them and their relation to it. The music of Beethoven, specifically the Archduke Trio is also used as a redemptive metaphor. Among other prominent themes are: the virtues of self-sufficiency, the relation of dreams and reality, the threat of fate, the uncertain grip of prophecy, and the influence of the subconscious.
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