Monday, July 26, 2004


Ooka, who is perhaps best known in the West for the novel Nobi (1951), translated by Ivan Morris as Fires on the Plain (1957), and the memoir Tsukamaru made (1948), epitomized the Japanese recruit of the latter days of the Pacific War; he was ill-trained, badly commanded, and largely abandoned by the central military bureaucracy. Conscripted in 1944 at the age of thirty-five, Ooka received three months of basic training and was subsequently sent to the front where he served as his battalion's communications man until his battalion was routed and numerous men killed. Captured in late January 1945, he was one of the few who survived, possibly because of his capture and ensuing imprisonment. Survival was very traumatic for Ooka, who was troubled that he, an unworthy soldier, had survived when so many others had not. Stahl's provocative book suggests that Ooka only began to process his guilt feelings in early, overtly autobiographical works, and that this process was actually the theme that grounded his postwar writing career. Stahl posits that writing became Ooka's survivor mission, allowing him first to process and then to come to terms with his own survival, by working through issues related to the collective Japanese war experience. ....through writing, Ooka served as a voice for the dead and those who could not speak and also as a moral conscience for the Japanese people in the process of remembering the war. In the process, Ooka also healed himself.
Memory, Guilt, Mourning and Responsibility: A Writer's Pilgrimage
by Patricia Welch, review of
The Burdens of Survival: Ooka Shohei's Writings on the Pacific War by David C. Stahl

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 691:
On moonless or overcast nights, Takeshi and Ichizo take off all their clothes and splash each other with Cypridina light, running and giggling under the palms.