The Man Booker Prize
goes to a tale of cruelty
in the Thai death camp
An Australian author, Richard Flanagan, has won this year`s Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North (a title he of course shares with Matsuo Basho`s famous work) based on the experiences of his father in the Thai Burma death railway camp as they called it, run by the Japanese during the second world war. His father died on the day he sent his final draft to his publisher but knew and was glad he was writing the book. I`ve already discussed the Railway Man here which was pretty good (better than the film which was made of it). This year`s Man Booker prize winner though looks really good from the report I`ve read. I`ll be keeping an eye out for it in the shops. I`m curious as to how he fits a love story into it.
It`s also of interest to me as I am reading The Second World War, by Antony Beevor (2012) at the moment and while the bulk of it deals with the European theatre, there is of course just as much detail about the Pacific war as well. There have been mentions in what I`ve read so far of Japanese cruelty mainly in China (and how the Chinese fared in fighting the Japanese when they were not fighting each other) and an account of the allied effort to stop the Japanese getting into Burma. I have also previously read The Rape of Nanking which was shocking, to say the least. I have not read that much yet about the death camps in Beevor`s book as I have not got that far. I can`t imagine how awful it must have been to have been a POW in a Japanese camp (British, Australian, Indian were the main nationalities and also Dutch and French, the French because the Japanese had taken over what was then called French Indochina) or any camp but for the purpose of this blog/post, a Japanese camp. This greatly detailed account of the Second World War is amazing and it is really hard to put down (but must be as you would be so stuck in the detail you`d starve or be sleep deprived if you didn`t put it down once in a while!!). The reasons behind certain decisions made by certain countries is just a real eye-opener. There are some really silly scenes in it as well like a minister from a certain country found crying on his bed when he hears his country has been invaded. It`s a great book which tells the story of individuals around Europe and beyond who suffered while their countries were either war-making or being dragged into the war.
Of course, as it`s the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war there are a lot of events marking that this year. That`s equally interesting. If I find a similar book about that, I`ll probably read it too. I watched Birdsong a few months ago which is a love story set during World War I, and based on Sebastian Faulks` work, but I have not seen that many films or shows about it generally. There is another book that has come out lately about how people in Europe suffered after the end of World War II at the hands of invading armies. I`m really into films/tv dramas and other accounts of World War II. The Pacific, Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers, Downfall, The Pianist, The Black Book are all shows /films I`ve appreciated with respect to World War II. A work of fiction, Alone in Berlin, was also really good and gave an account of a German who was not caught up in the Nazi fever and was made to pay for it. The Diary of Anne Frank of course is something everyone should read and with an intentionally lighter tone the film Life is Beautiful was also very touching but no less gripping. This is the first account I`ve actually really read though of World War II, independent of formal education (and you`d never really get this in an average school history book!!). Someone on a comment forum attached to the article about the booker winner sarcastically suggested the Australian prime minister should send a copy of Flanagan`s book to his pal PM Abe so he can have a look at it and learn how cruel the prison camp staff (and general I imagine) warmongers of World War II suggesting I gather that Abe knows all this and prefers to pretend it did not happen. Like the comfort women. These women are also mentioned in Beevor`s book. Maybe Abe should read that book but like I said…. His wife seems so much better than him but no amount of positive actions by her will make him look good in this regard I suspect. Now he has brought out this state secrets nonsense as well. It seems given what is happening in the world today that people do not learn anything about what war does to people. Soldiers and civilians alike.