Synopses & Reviews
From the National Book Award-winning author of Waiting: a narratively driven, deeply human biography of the Tang dynasty poet Li Bai — also known as Li Po
In his own time (701–762), Li Bai’s poems — shaped by Daoist thought and characterized by their passion, romance, and lust for life — were never given their proper due by the official literary gatekeepers. Nonetheless, his lines rang out on the lips of court entertainers, tavern singers, soldiers, and writers throughout the Tang dynasty, and his deep desire for a higher, more perfect world gave rise to his nickname, the Banished Immortal. Today, Bai’s verses are still taught to China’s schoolchildren and recited at parties and toasts; they remain an inextricable part of the Chinese language.
With the instincts of a master novelist, Ha Jin draws on a wide range of historical and literary sources to weave the great poet’s life story. He follows Bai from his origins on the western frontier to his ramblings travels as a young man, which were filled with filled with striving but also with merry abandon, as he raised cups of wine with friends and fellow poets. Ha Jin also takes us through the poet’s later years — in which he became swept up in a military rebellion that altered the course of China’s history — and the mysterious circumstances of his death, which are surrounded by legend.
The Banished Immortal is an extraordinary portrait of a poet who both transcended his time and was shaped by it, and whose ability to live, love, and mourn without reservation produced some of the most enduring verses.
"A taut introduction to the life and poetry of the influential eighth-century Daoist poet...Ha Jin’s polished biography will give a wider audience access to the politics and beauty of a major Chinese poet." Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“Ha Jin tells the story of how a supreme artist endures the struggles, frailties and losses that are a part of any life — for the genius Li Bai, those pervasive difficulties are compounded, as well as redeemed, by art and the artist’s awareness of his gifts. This is a fluently told story, mysterious yet familiar, tragic yet sometimes comical. Ha Jin is a master storyteller.” Robert Pinsky
About the Author
HA JIN left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of eight novels, four story collections, four volumes of poetry, and a book of essays. He has received the National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. In 2014 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in the Boston area and is a professor at the creative writing program at Boston University.