Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin is set in 1937 when the Japanese invaded Nanjing, then the capitol of China, in a frenzy of killing, rape, and cruelty. Chiang Kai-shek hightailed it for the hills, along with his army. Ditto the Mayor. Leaving behind the civil-ians to their fate. A woman stayed behind to face the Japanese and do what she could to protect the civilian population, she was Minnie Vautrin, an American dean of a woman’s college. Ha Jin’s work of historic fiction tells her story. He had available Vautrin’s journals and other records to lend authenticity. There were many other heroes, Ha Jin gives them voice as he tells how a city suc-cumbed to chaos as an army ran amok. His portrait of this city under attack is rendered with bright unexpected moments too, a Japanese officer who brings food, the Nazi, John Rabe, who saves lives. Vautrin shelters ten thousand refugees in a college built to accommodate 2500. Even within the shelter of the college, Vautrin could not provide safety, when the Japanese demand to take women, there is no force to stop them. The atrocities committed in Nanjing do not speak well of human evolution, they are beyond any humanity. Edmond Burke said "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". Nanjing Requiem tells the story of those who stood up to evil.— Deon Stonehouse
It’s 1937, and the Japanese are poised to invade Nanjing. Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women’s College, decides to remain at the school, convinced that her American citizenship will help her safeguard the welfare of the Chinese men and women who work there. She is painfully mistaken. In the aftermath of the invasion, the school becomes a refugee camp for more than ten thousand homeless women and children, and Vautrin must struggle, day after day, to intercede on the behalf of the hapless victims. Yet even when order and civility are restored, she remains deeply embattled, always haunted by the lives she could not save.
At once a searing story that unfurls during one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century and an indelible portrait of a singular and brave woman, Nanjing Requiem is another tour de force from the National Book Award-winning author of Waiting.
About the Author
Ha Jin’s previous books include the internationally bestselling Waiting, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Award; War Trash, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award; the story collections Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award; and three books of poetry.
“Subtle and powerful.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Crushingly beautiful, achingly sad. . . . What you most remember, once you put down the book, is not agony and hopelessness, not darkness and blood, but rather the reach of human goodness.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Remarkable. . . . Profoundly moving.” —The Plain Dealer
“Wonderful. . . . [Ha Jin’s] control over his characters is masterful; Japanese characters can be kindly, victims can be stridently impatient for vengeance. All are human.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“Nanjing Requiem is both plainspoken and revelatory, the saddest of Ha Jin’s novels. After this past decade of armed conflict, which has put millions of civilians at risk, his reminder of the human costs of war is also, unfortunately, timely.” —The Boston Globe
“An affecting, insightful portrait.” —The Oregonian
“[Minnie’s] humanizing voice and struggling perspective personalize the story and provide an element of reasonableness and decency amid so much savagery. . . . Harrowing.” —Wall Street Journal
“[Ha Jin’s] spare prose can achieve a masterful precision. . . . Demonstrate[s] how humans cope when forced together in wartime. . . . Testament to the bravery of women in the most horrifying of circumstances.” —The Independent (UK)
“Exquisitely painful. . . . Creates an unforgettable impression.” —St. Louis Dispatch
“Haunting. . . . He has honed a distinctively dry, laconic prose style.” —Financial Times
“Should be required reading for anyone who isn't familiar with what happened at Nanjing. . . . Courageously and unflinchingly, Ha Jin has taken an important step in remembering both the victims and the heroes of that senseless slaughter.” —Associated Press
“Delivers glimpses of the massacre in all its reeling madness: the young woman who is driven insane by her manifold violations; the ways violence can smite the spirit, even when the body is spared; the sight of ‘shells bursting in the air like black blossoms.’” —The Washington Post