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Russell BanksThe seamless, somewhat unsettling fusion of invention and reportage is aided and abetted by the fact that Ha Jin taps into two ancient and honorable Western literary traditions -- the novel in the form of a nonfiction memoir, and the nonfiction memoir as prison narrative. The former links Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to Kerouac's On the Road to Allan Gurganus's Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, and the latter links John Bunyan's Relation of My Imprisonment to Jacobo Timerman's Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number to Jack Henry Abbott's In the Belly of the Beast. It's a brilliant and original enjambment, and Ha Jin pulls it off with mastery; the result is that his narrator, Yu Yuan, is one of the most fully realized characters to emerge from the fictional world in years.
— The New York Times