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Nanjing Requiem: A Novel Hardcover – October 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“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

"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 
“Ha Jin brings a cool, spare documentary approach to this rich trove of material…a book that renders a subtle and powerful vision of one of the 20th century’s most monstrous interludes.” –New York Times Book 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, starred review 
“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
“Profoundly moving.” –Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Manages to deliver 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.’ Nanjing Requiem makes the most of Vautrin’s sad fate: the grotesquely unjust accusation by her supervisor that she didn’t do enough, that she was ultimately ‘a traitor to the Chinese people.’ Ha Jin gives us a poign­ant twist in the fate of our narrator Anling, whose grown son just happens to be in Tokyo taking a Japanese wife when all hell is being unleashed in his homeland.” –Washington Post

“Jin, who has eloquently chronicled the Chinese experience both at home and in the United States, fastens on a single drama within the larger one of the massacre…staggering.” –Obit Magazine
“Jin has done a wonderful job of weaving an ordered tapestry from the phantasmagoric fog of that episode. His control over his characters is masterful; Japanese officers can be kindly, victims can be stridently impatient for vengeance. All are human.” –Washington Independent Review of Books

“Nanjing Requiem remains muted in memory. 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…When we leave this crushingly beautiful, crushingly sad book, Ha Jin leaves us with the memory of good work, people saving lives, the worth of reaching out, even when death and despair prevail.” –Pop Matters

“Exquisitely painful…creates an unforgettable impression.” –St. Louis Dispatch
“An affecting, insightful portrait of Minnie Vautrin.” –Oregonian

“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.” –Boston Globe

“Sparse and unadorned, his prose refuses to call attention to itself. Jin’s angles are rarely oblique, and his economy of words feels almost utilitarian: his is a concern with precision, honesty, and direct description… Nanjing Requiem’s restraint is deliberate, and its narrative simplicity proves not a fault, but an achievement… Though his subject of choice is deeply disquieting, Jin does not set out to shock. Shying from bombast and hyperbole, his syntax relishes the minimal and leaves few words out of place. The power of his prose lies not in any self-indulgent flourish, but in its far-reaching resonance.” –Open Letters Monthly

“The deeper the reader delves into the book, the greater the sense of illumination…Jin again shows himself to be one of our most humane writers, maintaining an honesty that just can't be faked.” Barnes & Noble Review

“Captivating…In Jin’s conscientious hands, Vautrin becomes someone the reader can identify with—and a timeless hero to remember.” –Ms. Magazine  

“A tale worth retelling.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307379760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307379764
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,173,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It's better than an average 3-star book, but not worth 4 stars, in my opinion.
S. McGee
I am having a hard time understanding why the author chose to portray such a horrendous human tragedy with so little emotion and in such a detached manner.
Waldo wreader
Because of the lack of character investment I just couldn't get into this novel like I did the story of the Wu's.
K. Cade

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By John Jorgensen VINE VOICE on October 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, a few words on my background with this author. I was required to read Waiting: A Novel in college, and while I didn't mind reading it, I found it pretty dry and knew I would never have chosen to read it on my own. I did choose to read War Trash a few years ago when it was recommended by a coworker after we toured the Korean DMZ together one weekend. I started it, and while I didn't dislike it, it didn't grab my interest. Eventually I gave up on it somewhere in the middle chapters when another book which I'd been dying to read for months finally came out. I told myself I would return to it after I finished the new book, but I never did.

So I was a bit ambivalent about reading another Ha Jin book; somewhere along the line I came to associate him with dry, slow-paced, mediocre writing. The subject matter did grab my attention this time: A literary celebration of the heroes of the Rape of Nanjing is certainly an interesting premise. But I wondered whether the author could do it justice.

Did he ever! This is a wonderful book. It tells the tale of Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and acting president of Jinling College during the Japanese capture of Nanjing. Vautrin joins a number of other Westerners in making property in the Western district available for refugee camps, banking on the hope that Japan will be too concerned with maintaining good relations with the West to violate Western property.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dichou on December 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
I read "Nanjing Requiem" authored by Ha Jin whose books had in the past received many awards and honors because its description leads me to believe that it is an epic which sooths the souls of the victims of the Rape of Nanking and tells of the courage of Minnie Vautrin. Yet, the book turns out to be a total disappointment. It appears to be a book written and rushed to meet a deadline; the storylines do not connect and a chop suey style of writing mixes bits and pieces of writings from other sources.

The book provides no insight to the real suffering of the victims or the courage of Minnie Vautrin. I do not expect or wish the book to sensationalize the horrors of the Rape of Nanking, but I also do not expect the book to turn the victims into insensitive vicious mobs either.

Maybe the author wants the readers to do some soul searching by showing decent people who at the point of becoming a victim of atrocity can be changed to nasty human beings during the Nanking Massacre. With the flat and robotic writing, the author fails to depict the passion deep enough to reveal the suffering of the soul of the victims. Worse, the victims are painted as thugs in some incidents.

Weaving the fanatical mentality of Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution in the tragic Rape of Nanking era, instead of telling how the refugees helping each other, Ha Jin presents the refugees as heartless riotous mobs against a poor woman who stole a mug of rice to feed her 15 years old son jailed by the Japanese. This shows his complete lack of empathy and respect for these victims.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Walter W. Ko on March 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Nanjing Requiem( Pantheon, October 2011) is the latest novel by Ha Jin about the horror of 1937 Rape of Nanjing. He centered the main character on Minnie Vautrin, the dean of Jinling College with a fictionalized supporting team of assistants and helpers based on historical record. Ha Jin claimed he did the research himself.

He tried hard in bringing out Minnie Vautrin who confronted the invading Japanese soldiers by providing sanctuary for over 10,000 women and girls on her campus from being raped and killed. The stress and exhaustion eventually caused Vautrin's nervous breakdown and suicide. Ha Jin claimed that he "created" Anling to be Vautrin's assistant and the narrator of the story. Anling should have been a good character to portray. She had a husband who admired Japan and a son who studied in Japan for medical degree and in service for Imperial Army in China, leaving behind a Japanese wife and a mixed blood son in Tokyo. It could have been an excellent plot between love and hate, Chinese and Japanese, country and family, humanity and cruelty, as well as bravery and cowardice. It could also have generated a sharp contrast in the dilemma of loyalty to the country and filial piety to the parents. However, in the novel as the way presented by Ha Jin, Anling remained a one-dimensional, flat person without much emotion and life.

Also, under Ha Jin's pen, Minnie Vautrin was portrayed as a mean woman, burdened with guilt, cussing in foul language. In fact, according to historical records and interviews, she was an highly educated missionary of courage, compassion, and humanity. She devoted her life to the education of Chinese women and helping the poor.
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