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Nanjing Requiem: A Novel Hardcover – October 18, 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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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: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,528,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The intent of Ha Jin's new novel "Nanjing Requiem" is to bring the atrocities of the Japanese, during what is know as 'The Rape of Nanjing" to a wider public, as well as to celebrate the bravery of several Westerners who lived through this period and sought to stand up to the Japanese and protect innocent Chinese from slaughter. In particular the novel focuses on real life, Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and the Dean of Jinling Women's College, which she used to shelter thousands who sought to escape the atrocities.

"Nanjing Requiem" is a piece of historical fiction. In this genre an author takes a story of real and or imagined characters and brings the immediacy of their historical period to life through the interplay of history and the intimacy of the characters lives. Unfortunately as a pice of historical fiction "Nanjing Requiem" fails. There is no underlying intimate storyline. We merely have here a seemingly endless recitation of facts. For example on Dec. 8., Minnie went here and confronted the Japanese authorities. On Jan. 10 she went there and confronted the Japanese. There is no underlying story that holds the historical facts together and makes those facts real and immediate to the reader. The writing is so wooden that the endless description of brutality loses all emotional power to move the reader. I can only compare this novel to another work of historical fiction which is vastly superior, Ballard's 'Empire of the Sun", also concerned with Japanese brutality.

"Nanjing Requiem" sadly is a terrible disappointment, as The Rape of Nanjing is a story that needs to be told.
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