A map of betrayal

Ha Jin, 1956-

Book - 2014

"From the award-winning author of Waiting: a spare, haunting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries--China and the United States--and two families as it explores the complicated terrain of love and honor. When Lilian Shang, born and raised in America, discovers her father's diary after the death of her parents, she is shocked by the secrets it contains. She knew that her father, Gary, convicted decades ago of being a mole in the CIA, was the most important Chinese spy ever caught. But his diary--an astonishing chronicle of his journey from 1949 Shanghai to Okinawa to Langley, Virginia--reveals the pain and longing that his double life entailed. The trail lea...ds Lilian to China, to her father's long-abandoned other family, whose existence she and her Irish American mother never suspected. As Lilian begins to fathom her father's dilemma--torn between loyalty to his motherland and the love he came to feel for his adopted country--she sees how his sense of duty distorted his life. But as she starts to understand that Gary, too, had been betrayed, she finds that it is up to her to prevent his tragedy from damaging yet another generation of her family"--

Saved in:
Subjects
Genres
Spy stories
Published
New York : Pantheon Books [2014]
Language
English
Main Author
Ha Jin, 1956- (-)
Edition
First edition
Physical Description
280 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN
9780307911605
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

many years ago, the F.B.I. coined an acronym, MICE, to describe the motivations of the spy. This stands for Money, Ideology, Compromise and Ego. All spies, it is argued, are drawn into espionage by some combination of these factors. Gary Shang, a long-term Chinese Communist mole within the C.I.A. and the protagonist of Ha Jin's latest novel, fits uneasily into this template: Greed, it seems, plays only a minor part in his motivation, though it is money that eventually leads to his exposure; his adherence to his native country's ideology is habitual more than passionate; he is pressured to continue spying by a veiled threat to his family in China, but he is never openly coerced; his ego is tempered by self-doubt. Gary's nebulous motivations make him more believable than most fictional spies. He simply drifts into the espionage world and gets stuck there. For long periods, nothing much happens to him. In this, Gary's story is close to that of many real spies: Moles tend to burrow inside the system and then lie dormant, often for years. Gary Shang is unobtrusive, unremarkable and rather dull - important attributes in a genuine spy, but less than gripping in a fictional one. We meet Weimin Shang in Shanghai in 1949 as a young, newly married Communist, nist, a graduate of Tsinghua University recruited to infiltrate the spy networks of the retreating Chinese Nationalists. He isn't very skilled at spycraft. He can't shoot straight or dismantle a bomb, but he speaks good English, and thus is detailed to infiltrate an American cultural agency, a covert C.I.A. offshoot. He changes his name to Gary, "which sounded savvy and fashionable for a young Chinese man." "Why are you interested in this kind of work, Mr. Shang?" one of his superiors asks. "I need to eat and have to take whatever is available," he replies tamely. James Bond, he isn't. When the "cultural agency" moves out of Shanghai to Okinawa, Shang follows Beijing's orders and goes along, despite the dawning awareness that he is now an exile from the Chinese wife he barely knows and the children he will never see. From there, he moves on to suburban Virginia, as a trusted translator for the C.I.A. Ultimately he becomes a naturalized United States citizen, an agency stalwart, with access to some of the crown jewels of American intelligence. In chapters alternating with Gary's chronological story, Ha Jin follows the journey of Gary's half-American daughter, Lilian, as she searches for the truth about her father by reading his diaries and by traveling to modern-day China. We see America through the eyes of a Chinese émigré, torn between an old loyalty and growing affection for the adopted land he is betraying. Simultaneously, we see China through the eyes of his daughter, discovering whatever she can about the family her father left behind. There are strong autobiographical echoes here. Ha Jin (the pen name of Xuefei Jin) was born in 1956 to parents who were both military doctors. He volunteered for the People's Liberation Army at the age of 14 and served for five years before being admitted to Heilongjiang University, in Harbin, to study English, the language in which he has now written seven novels. In 1985, he came to Brandeis University to do graduate work, and stayed in the UnitedStates. Ha Jin's 1999 novel "Waiting" received the National Book Award and the PEN/ Faulkner Award, an astonishing achievement for a writer who, like Conrad and Nabokov, adopted a written language from an entirely different linguistic and literary tradition. If this occasionally reveals itself in somewhat clunky language - "Eyes glazed in pain and smitten with regret. ... He swallowed, wheezing and pushing down a wad of misery in his windpipe" - it also adds an authentic awkwardness, a voice at once outside and inside theculture. Gary bigamously marries an American waitress called Nellie, but secretly pines for his Chinese family. He finds solace in the country-music bromides of Hank Williams and inspiration in Nietzsche. "He began to believe in the superman, though he never succeeded in mastering his own life or outgrowing the herd values ingrained in him long ago." With his C.I.A. salary (and the far smaller stipend deposited in a Hong Kong bank by his Chinese bosses), he buys a suburban home and begins to fall for America, but only provisionally: "He loved some aspects of American life - the orderliness, the plentitude, the privacy, the continuity of daily life, the freedom of travel." And he spies, not dramatically but efficiently, to the point where Mao himself declares that Shang's work is equivalent in value to four armored divisions. Every few years, Gary meets his spymaster in Hong Kong and is told that he must not come back yet, that his family is being looked after, that he is rising through the ranks and deeply valued. He is homesick, but not so much that he insists on being brought back; he is settled in America, but not so rooted as to switch his loyalty. He prefers his Chinese mistress to his American wife, but won't rock the boat by fully loving either. Gary Shang's politics seem childlike, unchanging because they're unexplored and unchallenged. The sight of an official British car in Hong Kong "reminded him that he'd been engaged in fighting imperialism. China had to drive all the colonial powers off its soil, and he'd better stop indulging in self-pity and fretting about his personal gain and loss. " When the end comes, Gary is hung out to dry by Beijing. A cynical spymaster tells Gary's daughter that her father was never going to escape once he had deeply penetrated the C.I.A.'s bureaucracy and earned America's confidence. "A nail must remain in its position ... and rot with the wood it's stuck in, so a spy of the nail type is more or less a goner.... It's in the nature of our profession." "A Map of Betrayal" is an uneven novel. Lillian's discovery that her Chinese nephew, Gary's grandson, is also a minor spy offers too simple a parallel. Some of the characters veer close to stereotypes : the grumpy American wife, the manipulative spymaster, the rebellious niece in the Chinese pop band. Butin Gary himself, Ha Jin has captured the painful, often humdrum essence of the hidden agent, living a double life but only half a life, like those Soviet spies bedded down in the West and enjoying the gifts of democracy while working to wreck them, or the latest crop of "sleepers" uncovered in the United States, serving Russian intelligence while tending their suburban gardens. At the start of the novel, Gary is announced as "the biggest Chinese spy ever caught in North America." Yet, like most real spies, his motivations are small: a little money, a brushing of patriotism, a hint of coercion, a whiff of egotism. Kim Philby, the notorious British spy who hid in plain sight as a K.G.B. agent for more than 30 years, once explained: "To betray, you must first belong. I never belonged." Gary's tragedy is that of most moles. He never belongs: not to America or China; not to his wives, mistress or children; not to the Chinese intelligence service or the C.I.A.; and not, in the end, to himself. BEN MACINTYRE'S latest book is "A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. The U.S. as seen by a Chinese spy and China as seen by his American daughter.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [November 2, 2014]
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Ha Jin (Nanjing Requiem, 2011) presents a chillingly matter-of-fact tale of espionage and treachery told in alternating narratives. In the present, Lilian Shang, a pragmatic Maryland history professor, knows that her late father, Gary, was the biggest Chinese spy ever caught in North America, but she had no idea how much he suffered until his mistress gives her his diaries. When she travels to China on a Fulbright, she eludes the authorities to meet her newly discovered half-sister and niece, then returns home and encounters her enigmatic nephew. Meanwhile, we see Gary as a college graduate fluent in English, recruited by the Communists in 1949 and sent to Washington, D.C., where he dutifully and anxiously works his way up the ranks at the CIA. Perpetually homesick and tormented by his dangerous double life, he clings to the belief that his drastic sacrifices are benefiting his parents and lovely wife, whom he pines for even as he forms an American family. As Gary's brooding, many-layered story of delusion and betrayal suspensefully unfolds, Ha Jin offers startlingly redefining views of the strategic evolution of U.S.-Chinese relations during the nuclear arms race, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and Ping-Pong diplomacy. A sharply ironic, stealthily devastating tale of the tragic cost of blind patriotism, told by a master of clarifying fiction, that unites the personal and the geopolitical.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Starred Review. From the National Book Award- and PEN/Faulkner-winning author Jin (Waiting) comes a woman's inquisition into the limits of her father's loyalty to his nation and family. The narrative alternates between the present day and the years spanning 1949 to 1989. In the present, American-born Lillian Shang unravels her father Gary's mysterious life as a U.S.-based Chinese spy feeding information to the Mao administration. She pieces together his evolution from student, to spy, then prisoner-he ultimately ended up being a high-profile mole caught by the CIA. Lillian undertakes her research primarily through Gary's extensive diaries, bequeathed to Lillian by his longtime mistress. Gary's story is too messy for journalistic prose alone, so Lillian travels to northeast China to connect with his other family. In doing so, she sees the pervasive duplicity that defined Gary's life abroad; his family members know little about what's happened to him since leaving decades before. When Lillian's husband is embroiled in a dubious microchip scheme with a newly acquainted Chinese cousin, the FBI materializes and Lillian must evaluate whether to respond with familial fidelity or self-preservation. Jin's subtle prose entrances; he divulges information measuredly, almost reluctantly. The result is a captivating tale that probes the Chinese political state over the past half century. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Ha Jin (Waiting) returns to the subject of the complex relationship of China and the West, following the twin story lines of Gary Shang's career as a spy for China and his adult daughter Lillian as she tries to understand her father's life and choices many years after his capture and death. Gary finds himself increasingly taxed by his love of two families and the two countries they represent as he rises through the ranks at the CIA. Lillian travels through China meeting and connecting to the family her father left behind to spy for his country and finds that she must help one of them escape her father's dark fate. The narration by Angela Lin is strong, with solid character differentiation. This is an excellent spy story in the le Carré style, with a potent focus on character and conflicting loyalties. The Chinese setting will appeal to those with an interest in contemporary China and modern Chinese history. VERDICT Highly recommended for lovers of cerebral spy fiction and literary fiction. ["Spy story it may be, but what lingers is the immeasurable human toll," read the starred review of the Pantheon hc, LJ 9/15/14.]-Tristan M. Boyd, Austin, TX © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A plainspoken, even reticent narrative illuminates the complex loyalties of a Chinese-American spy, who considers himself a patriot of both countries. As a novel of espionage, the latest from the prizewinning author (Waiting, 1999, etc.) satisfies like the best of John le Carr, similarly demystifying and deglamorizing the process of gathering information and the ambiguous morality that operates in shades of gray. But it's plain that this novel is about more than the plight of one spy, who must forsake his Chinese family in order to embed himself as a master translator for the CIA, becoming "China's ear to the heartbeat of the United States." In the process, he starts a second family, which knows nothing about the first, raising a daughter with his Irish-American wife. He also has a mistress, a Chinese-American woman to whom he relates and responds in the way he can't with his American wife and to whom he entrusts his diaries. Thus, the issues of love and loyalty that permeate the novel aren't merely political, but deeply personal. Narrating the novel is Lilian Shang, a scholar and the adult daughter of the late Gary Shang, convicted of treason in America, abandoned by his Chinese handlers, who receives the diaries from his lifelong mistress. Chapters in which Lilian learns about her father's first family in China and attempts to connect with them and bridge their related pasts alternate with chapters from Gary's perspective, in which he leaves his homeland and his family and earns (and betrays?) the trust of his adopted country, one in which the freedom of jazz and the mournful tone of Hank Williams speak to him deeply. "The two countries are like parents to me," he insists at his trial. "They are like mother and father, so as a son I can't separate the two and I love them both." Lilian ultimately discovers that such conflicting loyalties run deep in the bloodlines of her extended family. Subtle, masterful and bittersweet storytelling that operates on a number of different levels. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The spring semester started on February 15 at Beijing Teachers College. In my American history class, a survey course for undergrads, six or seven students were from Hong Kong and Taiwan. They didn't stand out among their peers except that they spoke English better, not because they were smarter or better at memorizing the vocabulary and expressions but because they'd begun to learn the language in their childhood. Twenty years ago it had been unimaginable that such students would go to college in China. I gave lectures in a large room with sloped seating, and the class was always well attended. I noticed that many students were taking the course mainly to learn English, since they planned to go abroad for professional school or graduate work. One girl, an anthropology major, told me that her parents would pay for her tuition and living expenses if she was admitted by a decent graduate program in the States. I asked what her parents meant by a "decent" program, and she said, "At least a state's flagship university, like Rutgers or UMass-Amherst. Any of the UC schools would be great too." I was impressed by her parents' savvy about American universities. Many Chinese had quite a bit of cash now, in part because they spent mainly on food and didn't pay property taxes. Of course, if you stepped off campus, you would encounter all kinds of people who struggled to scrape together a living. Not far from the school's main entrance there was a job agency beside a billboard that advertised shampoo. Under the gargantuan ad, which displayed a charming female face smiling over a bottle spouting pink bubbles, migrant workers, young men and women who had just arrived from the countryside, would gather in the mornings, waiting to be picked up as day laborers or temporary hands who made five or six dollars a day. Some of them smoked and wisecracked, and some stared at the ground. If you went to the train or bus stations, you'd find people lolling around, and some of them were homeless. I was also teaching a graduate seminar and met a group of fourteen students once a week for three hours. We discussed issues in Asian American history and culture. I'd taught both courses numerous times and could do them without much preparation, so I had a lot of time for my personal project of reconstructing my father's story. These days Beijing's atmosphere was tense because the government was nervous about the popular democratic movements in the Mideast and Africa. But on campus people could talk freely in private. I told a few colleagues about the impasse in my personal investigation. One of them was in the Philosophy Department, Professor Peng, an older man I had known for many years; he said I shouldn't give up the hope of locating Bingwen Chu. Professor Peng believed we could track Chu down if he was still alive. Chu used to work in the Ministry of National Security, which must have a file on him. Given his age, he must have retired long ago, so there should be no rule forbidding him to meet with me. Professor Peng said that a former student of his was working in that ministry and might be able to help me. He called the young man, a junior official, and told me to go see him. I went to the headquarters of the Ministry of National Security, which was a brownish seven-story building encircled by a high black steel fence. The sentry at the front gate phoned my contact inside, and the young official strolled out to meet me. He had a soft-skinned face and an urbane demeanor. I told him I was looking for an uncle of mine, which was true in a sense since Bingwen Chu had been my father's longtime friend of some kind. I showed him Chu's snapshot, which I had Xeroxed from The Chinese Spook. A photo was necessary because I was clueless about his real name. The young official was delighted to know I was teaching at his alma mater for the second time and to hear me speak decent Mandarin, a language I had never stopped learning since I was a child, so he was more than willing to help. He jotted down the information on Bingwen Chu and promised to get someone to look through the archives. He'd give me a ring if they found anything about the man. He called at the end of February to tell me that Chu was living in a suburb of Beijing, in a residential compound for retired cadres. I phoned Chu that very evening, saying I was Gary Shang's daughter from the United States and would love to see him. After a long pause, Chu said in a voice that suggested a clear head, "All right, I have plenty of time nowadays. Come any day you want to." We settled on the following Wednesday afternoon, since I'd teach only in the morning that day. Before visiting him, I reviewed some questions essential for reconstructing my father's story. I took a taxi to Chu's place, intimidated by the packed buses and subway. Two decades ago, when I was in my early thirties and teaching in Beijing, I'd ridden a bike or taken public transportation whenever I went out, but it was hard for me to do the same now, because the buses and trains were far too crowded and because I was no longer young. Bingwen Chu was a small withered man with a bush of white hair and a face scattered with liver spots, but his eyes were still bright and alert. Given his age, eighty-seven, he was in good shape. He appeared at ease and glad to see me. We were seated in his living room, its walls decorated with framed certificates of merit, all bearing the scarlet chop marks of the offices that had issued the commendations. After his youngest daughter, a forty-something, had served dragon well tea, he said to her, "Can you excuse Lilian and me for a moment?" The stocky woman nodded and left without a word. Although he addressed me by my first name and I called him Uncle Bingwen, I felt a palpable barrier between us. He'd been my father's sole handler for three decades, but not an unfailing friend. I reminded myself to be composed and that I was here mainly to ask him some questions. Chu allowed me to take notes but not to record our conversation. That was fine with me. "Sure," he said, "Gary and I were comrades-in-arms, also buddies. I was his recommender when he was inducted into the Party." "When was that?" I asked. "The summer of . . . nineteen fifty-two--no, fifty-three. He was voted in unanimously." "Uncle Bingwen, in your opinion, was my dad a good Communist, a sincere believer?" "Well, it's hard to say. But I know this: he loved China and did a great service to our country." "So he was a patriot?" "Beyond any doubt." "Did it ever occur to you that he might have loved the United States as well?" "Yes. We read about that . . . in some newspaper articles on his trial. I could sympathize with him. No fish can remain . . . unaffected by the water it swims in. In a way, we have all been shaped . . . by forces bigger than ourselves." "That's true. How often did you meet him?" "On average, we met every two years. But sometimes we lost touch . . . due to China's political chaos. Sometimes we met once a year." "Did he ever come back to China on the sly?" "No, never. Our higher-ups wouldn't let him . . . for fear of blowing his identity. Gary was always eager to return for a visit. He often said he was lonely and homesick. The people in the intelligence service all know . . . what those feelings are like. For his suffering, bravery, and fortitude, Gary had our utmost respect." "Then why didn't China make any effort to rescue him when he was incarcerated in the States?" "He was a special agent--the type we call 'nails.' " "Can you elaborate?" Chu lifted his teacup and took a swallow, his mouth sunken. He seemed to have only a few teeth left. He said, "A nail must remain in its position . . . and rot with the wood it's stuck in, so a spy of the nail type is more or less a goner. Gary must've known that. There was no help for it; it's in the nature of our profession." I felt he was hedging by categorizing my father's situation. Perhaps he couldn't go into detail about his case, which involved some thorny issues, such as the diplomatic relationship between the two countries and Gary's future usefulness or uselessness to China. I veered the conversation a bit, asking, "To the Chinese government, how big an agent was my dad?" "Gary was in a class all his own, our highest-ranking spy." That was a shock. "But--he was a general merely on paper, wasn't he?" "Not at all. The intelligence he sent back . . . helped China make right decisions that were vital to our national security. Some of the information from Gary . . . went to Chairman Mao directly." "So for that he earned his due?" "Yes. His rank was higher than mine, although he had started later and lower than me." Chu paused as if to gather his strength. He resumed, "In intelligence circles, very few can reach the rank of general . . . purely by their abilities and contributions. Gary was an exception. He got promoted to general, well deserved. I couldn't catch up with him." "You didn't become a general?" "I'd been a colonel . . . for more than twenty years before I retired. I thought they might give me the big promotion, but they did not, because I didn't have enough pull and resources." "What do you mean by 'resources'?" "Basically money and wealth. You had to bribe the people in key positions. At any rate, Gary was different from the rest of us . . . and earned his promotions, granted directly from the top. To tell the truth, in the seventies, my colleagues would pronounce his name with reverence." "You mean they regarded him as a hero?" "Also a legend." Again my father's gaunt face appeared in my mind's eye, but I suppressed it. I looked through my list of questions and asked again, "Uncle Bingwen, did you ever meet my father's first wife, Yufeng Liu?" His face fell as if I had hit a wrong note. He said, "I met her once, in nineteen sixty . . . when I went down to the countryside to attend . . . your grandfather's funeral. We used to mail her money every month, but later we lost contact. She left their village in the early sixties. I have no idea where she is now . . . or if she's still alive." "You have no information on her at all?" "I have something." He stood and went over to a bookcase. He pulled open a drawer, took out a spiral notebook, and tore off a page. "Here's her old address in the countryside. Like I said, she relocated, so we stopped sending her Gary's salary." I folded the paper and put it into my inner jacket pocket. "Why wouldn't she let you know her new address so that she could get paid?" I asked. "Money became worthless during the three famine years. I guess that could be a reason. Or maybe she got married again . . . and wouldn't want to be tied to your dad legally anymore." We went on to talk about my father's personal relationship with his handler. Chu insisted that the two of them had been bound together "like a pair of grasshoppers on one string." It was Gary's role as a top agent in the enemy's heart, the CIA, that helped Chu, Gary's sole handler, survive the political shifts and consolidate his position in intelligence circles in Beijing. For that he was still grateful to my father. In his view Gary was undoubtedly a hero, whose deeds all the Chinese should remember. Chu seemed to be carried away by his remembrances, growing warmer and chattier as he went on. Evidently he had few opportunities to speak his mind like this. While I was wondering if it was time to take my leave, he said, "Do you know . . . you have some half siblings?" "My father mentioned them in his diary. But he spent only a few weeks with Yufeng before he left home. Are you sure they're his children?" Chu chuckled. "Absolutely. Yufeng gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, in the fall of 1949. I told your father about them. The two kids really took after him." His words, though casually said, struck me, and my cheeks heated up. I had known about my half siblings but questioned their paternity. Something like a wash of shame crept over me as I realized I had unconsciously attempted to distance my half siblings from our father ever since I came to know of their existence. Before saying good-bye, I held Chu's blotchy hand with both of mine and thanked him for speaking to me. Now I was more determined than ever to find my father's first family. Excerpted from A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.