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Nanjing Requiemby Ha Jin
Synopses & Reviews
The award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash returns to his homeland in a searing new novel that unfurls during one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century: the Rape of Nanjing.
In 1937, with the Japanese 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 behalf of the hapless victims. Even when order and civility are eventually restored, Vautrin remains deeply embattled, and she is haunted by the lives she could not save.
With extraordinarily evocative precision, Ha Jin re-creates the terror, the harrowing deprivations, and the menace of unexpected violence that defined life in Nanjing during the occupation. In Minnie Vautrin he has given us an indelible portrait of a woman whose convictions and bravery prove, in the end, to be no match for the maelstrom of history.
At once epic and intimate, Nanjing Requiem is historical fiction at its most resonant.
"For his sixth novel, Jin (Waiting) focuses on the atrocities committed by the Japanese occupiers in 1937 Nanjing. Jin describes horrible acts in a style bordering on reportage, lending bitter realism to his chronicle of violence and privation. While much will be familiar to readers of Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanjing, Jin anchors his tale on two characters: the middle-aged narrator, Anling Gao, and real-life American missionary Minnie Vautrin, dean of Jinling Women's College. Anling assists Minnie, and through her eyes we follow the missionary's heroic decision to open the college to homeless refugees, creating a safety zone that the Japanese can't penetrate. Jin wants to celebrate this 'Goddess of Mercy' who sheltered more than 10,000 women and children, endured near daily menace from the Japanese, and literally worked herself to death. Anling too makes a heartbreaking sacrifice, although her torment is secret, since she cannot acknowledge her son's Japanese wife nor the child they bear. Jin's dialogue includes some unfortunate anachronisms ('cut to the chase'; 'pain in the ass'), contemporary phrases that wouldn't have been part of a pious Chinese or American woman's vocabulary in the 1930s. Despite these minor lapses, Jin paints a convincing, harrowing portrait of heroism in the face of brutality. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Since Ha Jin won the National Book Award for Waiting, his writing keeps opening up like a big, beautiful fan; this book sounds as far-reaching as anything he has ever written. And even bolder about looking into last century’s heart of darkness. Essential where good literature is read." Library Journal
About the Author
Ha Jin's previous books include the internationally best-selling 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.
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