Title: The Rape of Nanking
Writer: Iris Chang
Publishing House: Penguin Books
Date of Publication: November 1st 1998 (first published 1997)
Rating: 5 stars
”Almost all people have this potential for evil, which would be unleashed only under certain dangerous social circumstances.”
A beloved European friend, who’s currently living in Changzhou, has been pestering me to read this book for months. I was unwilling. Of course, History is my greatest love and I was extremely familiar with the tragedy of Nanjing the capital of China at the time- through documentaries and films. This is exactly why I hadn’t read Iris Chang’s book. I couldn’t bear to visualize the scenes of destruction and utter brutality in my mind. Even the Wikipedia page narrating the slaughters is a place of horror. However, I thought that maybe the time had finally come and I ventured…
What kind of review can I possibly write now? There are times that I feel my words lose all meaning…The book chronicles the atrocities committed by the Japanese invaders after the fall of the city on 13/12/1937. The estimated victims? 300,000 people over a period of six weeks….The writing is detailed, powerful, razor-sharp. The horror comes through the pages not because the writer intended to shock but because the events described have no need for embellishment or sensationalist language. The violence, the ordeal, the brutality of the attacks, the behaviour of the monsters, the paranoia. Women and children, innocent civilians, meeting a fate and an end that no one is able to imagine. I feel that each sentence I am writing falls short, remains meaningless, devoid of any substance. It is impossible to enclose and communicate the feelings caused in me while I was reading Chang’s book. The anger, the hatred, the despair…It’s like a journey to a Hell that no religion has ever conceived, a pit of blood and madness that leaves you hopeless, empty, frozen….
And in the end? And now? So many eulogies, so many times mankind has uttered ”never again”. And the result? Nothing. Purely nothing. We loudly and wildly proclaim ”never another Holocaust, another Somme, another Vietnam, another Nanjing…”’ Empty words and evil deeds are the banes of History. I often feel the human race has learnt nothing from its darkest moments. We live through endless repetitions of horrors (in various degrees and forms), watching today’s ”elected” dictators giving speeches, ruling lives….I don’t care about political or religious issues, I don’t care about political correctness. This isn’t about power or international relationships. This is about the sheer brutality that lives in every human being, waiting for a chance to come forth and attack and the natural tendencies exploited by those in power all over the world, throughout the course of History. How can one stop this? The answer is yet to be found….