A rich, moving and titillating account of the poet’s life. The Li Po that emerges from this tale is a figure we know so well and yet hardly ... a deeply empathetic portrait of a literary genius whose vicissitudes in life—filled with ambitions, frailties, losses and pains—would pale a Shakespearean drama ... mesmerizing.
In The Banished Immortal, a biography of Li, the novelist Ha Jin narrates the poet’s unusual life with erudition and empathy ... One might easily take The Banished Immortal, his first work of nonfiction, as a departure from his previous work. But a close reading suggests that it is a return to his early themes, and a tribute to the poet he was before making his mark as a novelist ... The Banished Immortal is a biography, but it is also a document in which a rootless writer nods to the past inside him. Writing about Li Bai—his life, his work, and his country—Jin finally returns home.
A typical biography, spanning the life and career of the eighth-century poet, but Ha Jin's masterful style and deep affection for his subject make the book a pleasure to read--especially for those unfamiliar with Li Bai or Chinese poetry in general ... liberally quotes Bai's work, sometimes reproducing complete poems in translation to show the depth of his imagery and style. A number of readers will pick up this book knowing its author but not Li Bai, and Ha Jin makes sure they see Bai's prodigious talent. Newcomers will be swept up in Bai's personal history while fans of his work will enjoy Ha Jin's own take on the man and his influence.
A kind of hagiography that is both scholarly and emotionally engaging ... much of what [Jin] presents as fact feels merely speculative and ultimately the mythology holds this portrait together ... Libraries building Chinese literature collections will love this book. Essential for academic libraries and recommended for large poetry holdings.
[Li Ba's] life, as distinguished poet and fiction writer Ha Jin so limpidly relays it, was peripatetic rather than domestic, usually away from the family he strove to support ... Li Bai still stands, with his friend Du Fu, at the pinnacle of Chinese poetry, and his influence is extensive the world over.
Ha Jin takes an wide-ranging approach to literary biography. He uses every available source, both historical and literary, and essentially comes up with an adventure story where the poems form part of the subject’s development and admirably flesh out the biographer’s text ... Ha Jin wisely gives readers a very liberal sprinkling of Li Bai’s poetry during the course of the biography ... Ha Jin has written a moving, compassionate and comprehensive, yet measured biography of a major Chinese poet who needs to be better-known in the West; the warm accessibility of the writing and the first-class research behind the book make it essential reading for anyone interested in Chinese culture.
A taut introduction to the life and poetry of influential eighth century Daoist poet Li Bai ... Jin’s explanations of Li’s poetry will help readers unfamiliar with Chinese forms see the power and beauty of Li’s work, and the distinct Daoist influences that put him at odds with his Confucian contemporaries. Jin’s polished biography will give a wider audience access to the politics and beauty of a major Chinese poet.
The author is a careful, deliberate stylist, which has made for finely understated novels and short stories. When writing nonfiction, though—especially regarding a subject like Li Bai, where accurate historical records are sparse—his writing becomes restrained, even wooden. Though Jin has accessed Chinese-language sources, his book is often frustratingly bereft of interpretive power or context. For example, the author barely examines the publishing industry (or word of mouth) that led to Li Bai’s rising stardom but fusses over picayune squabbles about his behavior at court. Jin’s fine translations of his subject’s poems are blessedly abundant, but he resists delivering deep interpretations of them ... Jin dutifully explores Li Bai’s status as a major, high-spirited poet but with little of the vigor of his subject.