Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang

I admit to somewhat morbidly picking this book up after learning that author Iris Chang recently committed suicide. Did wading through so much horrific material have an adverse effect on her mental health? At first I thought, well, of course it must have in some way. Now I think differently.

This is one of those books where the author's anger gets somewhat in the way. It's like she's not describing historical events, but wrangling with a horrible family member that royally pisses her off. I wish she could have reigned it in a bit more. For example, she says the miseries inflicted on the Chinese by Japanese soldiers only came to an end with the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. Yet I felt she could have at least described this as a terrible double tragedy. I got the impression that she felt the Japanese had got their just deserts. There are other similar examples in the book, which I didn't write down, so I can't quote properly.

Naturally, you can't blame Iris Chang for being angry. What she describes is beyond horrific. In 1937 the Japanese invaded the city of Nanking and went about killing some 300,000 over a six week period. Not just killing but absolutely atrocious tortures.

I will never understand what motivates men to rape. Anyone who has read about war atrocities will know that along with killing comes rape. How men can repeatedly rape a woman whose genitals have been so bloodied and bruised beyond recognition, in front of crowds of people, is beyond me. Not only that, but after the women have been thus used, they are killed, in some cases their genitals further mutilated. In times of war, when all social norms are thrown out the window, and men can do what they want, I find it chilling how they immediately rape, torture and mutilate women. It's like something straight out of the Marquis de Sade.

I was surprised that this wasn't a bigger book. Iris Chang actually interviewed Chinese survivors of the Rape of Nanking. Why didn't she include their stories of those she interviewed?

The last chapters I found very interesting. Japan is still in denial about this war time atrocity. Even top politicians continue to deny it ever happened, or that it was as bad as has been documented. Funny how whole nations can deny reality.

The Rape of Nanking is worth the read, for its educational value. I felt something was missing though. Even though I didn't like Iris Chang's tone, it's a loss to many that she took her life. Surely she must have had much, much more to write about.

No comments: