Fate or State: The Double Life of a Composite Chinese Spy in A Map of Betrayal
In A Map of Betrayal Ha Jin interweaves his personal experience with his historical and political concerns to create a novel based loosely on the case of Larry Wu-Tai Chin, a PRC spy who for 30 years infiltrated the CIA. The protagonist, Gary Shang, is a composite of Chin and Jin. In mapping Gary’s geographical, psychological, and linguistic odysseys, the author infuses the work with his sensibility as an accidental immigrant caught between worlds. The trope of doubling runs through the text, underscoring the themes of duplicity and self-division and creating a contrapuntal score. Thematically, the novel interrogates the relationship between the state and the individual by weighing dual national allegiances against personal loyalties and by exploring reciprocal betrayal, bilingualism, and repressed historical trauma. Structurally, it alternates between a third-person account focalized through Gary and his daughter’s first-person account, covering two historical periods, representing different generations, and orchestrating multiple national(ist) perspectives. This chapter brings out the four-way correspondences between the author Jin, the historical Chin, and the fictional Gary and his grandson Ben to show the author’s abiding concerns about the infringement of individual lives by the polity and about the psychological turmoil wrought by the vicissitudes of (im)migration.