The rape of Nanjing


Ha Jin’s sixth novel, Nanjing Requiem, draws heavily from historic records, biographies and journals, particularly those of Minnie Vautrin, the acting dean of Jinling Women’s College in 1937—when Imperial Japanese forces invaded China. Jin’s journalistic approach to one of the 20th century’s greatest horrors builds a wall between reader and character, but it is a wall that works for this story. Anling, Vautrin’s fictional assistant, narrates the story of 10,000 refugees in the college’s makeshift camp without benefit of enough sanitation or food; of the kidnap, rape and murder of women, children, and men; and of Vautrin’s personal struggles during and after the invasion. It is difficult to remember that this is a work of fiction, and it may be that 300 pages is not enough to tell this story, but it is enough to bring light to a period in history that many Americans know little about.