Nanjing Requiem: Book summary and reviews of Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin

Nanjing Requiem

A Novel

By Ha Jin

Nanjing Requiem
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2011,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Despite its inherent power, the narrative doesn’t pack the voltage it deserves... Fiction can tell great truths. Calm can deliver a harrowing tale. But, in the end, one can’t help but wonder whether Ha Jin’s unnervingly flat chronicle is the right vehicle for searing history. Take the fire from an inferno and what have you got? Ashes." - The Wall Street Journal

"The novel does contain some awkward phrasing. Ha Jin writes in his second language, English, a remarkable achievement but one that demands editorial vigilance. The reader is surprised at times to find contemporary slang in the mouths of Chinese characters speaking more than 70 years ago.... This is the sort of misstep that can provide an unfortunate distraction in the course of an otherwise fine novel, a book that renders a subtle and powerful vision of one of the 20th century’s most monstrous interludes." - New York Times, Isabel Hilton

"Jin describes horrible acts in a style bordering on reportage, lending bitter realism to his chronicle of violence and privation.... Jin paints a convincing, harrowing portrait of heroism in the face of brutality." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Jin continues his scrupulous excavation of buried truths about Chinese life… eviscerating… Writing with unnerving austerity, Ha Jin resolutely addresses inexplicable terror and miraculous resistance." - Booklist

"Starred Review. Requiem is necessary testimony… Jin's loyal readers will notice a bluntness - jarringly effective here - different from his previous works, as if Jin, too, must guard himself against the horror, the horror." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. The novelist's subtle mastery enriches the work… A matter-of-fact, plainspoken narrative that has a profound impact." - Kirkus Reviews

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Author Information

Ha Jin Author Biography

Xuefei Jin, who writes under the pseudonym Ha Jin, was born in 1956 in Liaoning Province in northern China. His father was a military officer. In 1969, at only 14 years of age, Ha Jin joined the People's Liberation Army based at the northeastern border between China and the former Soviet Union. While in the army he began teaching himself middle and high-school courses. After his military service ended, he taught himself English while working the night shift as a railroad telegrapher in Jiamusi, a remote frontier city in the Northeast. During this time he followed the English learner's program, hoping "someday to read Friedrich Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 in the English original".

In 1977, when colleges reopened after the ...

... Full Biography

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