It was when he moved back to China to be with his ailing father that Ai grew interested in the social landscape of his country, and began to ask how one could utilize modern design techniques to highlight political issues.
For a few decades in the middle of the last century, American fiction featured a strong Jewish voice, world-weary yet wisecracking, in which unconcern—even disgust—toward the world coexisted with fascination with its linguistic and philosophical possibilities. With his existential emphasis, the Jew became the everyman; though the Jewish immigrant now rarely appears as a novelistic protagonist, a great nostalgia for his brand of schmerz persists.
An Irish writer best known for his novels “The Blackwater Lightship,” “The Master,” and “Brooklyn,” Tóibín knows how to turn a lovely sentence, full of cadence and lyricism. In this collection, Ireland makes up the backdrop: many of his characters are returning to Ireland after a long absence, or are still—though expatriates—carrying the land within them.
What students are really saying, if less articulately than they might, is that it is possible to work together, that they needn’t break into isolated individuals or communities—and that, standing beside government institutions, one shouldn’t ever feel small.