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.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
October 18, 2011
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin
Finally Ban began to talk. For a whole evening we sat in the dining room listening to the boy. He said, "That afternoon when Principal Vautrin told me to go tell Mr. Rabe about the random arrests in our camp, I ran to the Safety Zone Committee's headquarters. As I was reaching that house, two Japanese soldiers stopped me, one pointing his bayonet at my tummy and the other sticking his gun against my back. They ripped off my Red Cross armband and hit me in the face with their fists. Then they took me away to White Cloud Shrine. There's a pond inside the temple, and a lot of carp and bass lived in the water. The monks were all gone except for two old ones who'd been shot dead and dumped into a latrine. The Japanese wanted to catch the fish but didn't have a net. An officer emptied his pistol into the pond but didn't hit any fish. Then another one began throwing grenades into the water. In a flash big bass and carp surfaced, all knocked out and belly�up. The Japs poked us four Chinese with bayonets, and ordered us to undress and get into the water to bring out the fish. I couldn't swim and was scared, but I had to jump into the pond. The water was freezing cold. Luckily, it was just waist-deep. We brought all the half-dead fish to the bank, and the Japanese smashed their heads with rifle butts, strung them through the gills with hemp ropes, and tied them to shoulder poles. Together we carried the fish to their billets. They were large fish, each weighing at least fifteen pounds.
"The soldiers had fried fish for dinner but didn't give us anything to eat. Instead, they made us pick up horse droppings left by their cavalry with our bare hands. At dusk they took us to an ammo dump to load a truck. More Chinese were there working for them, eleven in total. We carried boxes of bullets onto the truck. When the loading was done, three fellows and I were ordered to go with the truck to Hsia Gwan. I was shocked to see so many houses burned down in that area. Lots of buildings were still burning, and the flames snapped and howled like a rushing wind. The electric poles along the way were blazing like huge torches. Only the Yangtze Hotel and a church stood undamaged. We stopped at a little slope and unloaded the truck. Near the riverbank a large crowd had gathered, more than a thousand people. Some of them were Chinese soldiers and some were civilians, including women and kids. A couple of men in the crowd raised white flags, and a white sheet was dangling from a tree. Beyond the people, three tanks with their turrets like large upside-down basins were standing on the embankment, their guns pointing at the crowd. Near us some Japanese soldiers were sitting around a battle flag planted in the ground, drinking rice wine from a large keg wrapped in straw matting. An officer came over and barked out some orders, but the soldiers at the heavy machine guns did nothing and just looked at one another. The officer got furious. He drew his sword and hit a soldier with the back of it. Thwack, thwack, thwack. Then his eyes fell on us Chinese coolies squatting close by. Raising his sword, he gave a loud cry, charged at the tallest one among us, and slashed off his head. Two squirts of blood shot into the air more than three feet high and the man fell over without a whimper. We all dropped to our knees and banged our heads on the ground, begging for mercy. I peed my pants.
"The soldiers at the machine guns were flabbergasted. Then one of the guns began firing, and the other two followed. In a flash the machine guns posted at other spots started shooting too. So did the tanks. The crowd was swirling around, crying and falling, but the people were trapped. Every bullet cut down several of them. In less than ten minutes they were all mowed down. Then groups of soldiers carrying fixed bayonets went over to finish off those who were still breathing. I was so horrified that I couldn't stop trembling and crying. One fellow worker grabbed hold of my hair and shook me, saying, 'Don't make so much noise--it will draw attention.' That stopped me.
"We returned with the truck to carry loot for the soldiers, mainly furniture. They didn't keep all the stuff and threw lots of things into the big bonfire in front of their regimental headquarters. Over the fire were pigs and sheep and quarters of a buffalo skewed with long steel bars, and a couple of boiling cauldrons. The air was full of the smell of roasted meat. That night they locked us in a room and gave us each a ball of rice and a cup of water. The next two days they took us to the area east of the Central University to carry loot for them again. They stripped every house of its valuables and then torched it. One soldier carried a safe cracker, but most times they didn't use the tool and just blew the safes open with hand grenades fixed to their bottoms, where the iron was thinner. They were very fond of wristwatches and jewelry--those were what they were after. One of them, a young fellow, even took a baby carriage. I couldn't stop wondering what he'd do with that. He was too young to have kids.