Fires on the Plain
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Winner of the 1951 Yomiuri Prize for Literature! I believe only around a dozen of these winners has been translated into English, so this is a real treat. I have not read too much Japanese literature explicitly dealing with wartime experience; this is really the only one to be memorable--not least because the narrator, not just the events.
Borzoi imprint of the Knopf company; first edition, translated by Ivan Morris. The other translation would be a welcomed edition on the tracker! If there is interest, I can upload his "Record of a POW"--just leave a comment.
From the end of the book:
Shōhei Ōoka (pronounced “Oh-ka”) was born in Tokyo in
1909. He specialized in French at Kyoto University, and was
graduated in 1932, after which he made a name as a translator
of French literature. In 1944 he joined the Japanese Army,
and was taken prisoner in the Philippine defeat of 1945. In
1953-4 he was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at Yale Uni
versity, and at present lectures on French literature at Meiji
University in Tokyo.
He is the author of a war diary, RECORD OF A POW (1948),
and of two novels, THE LADY OF MUSASHINO (1950) and FIRES
ON THE PLAIN (1952). He has contributed short stories and
critical essays to almost every literary magazine in Japan,
and has been awarded two literary prizes: the Yokomitsu
Prize in 1949 for his first book, and the Yomiuri Prize in
1952 for this one. He now lives in the beautiful coastal town
of Oiso, not far from Tokyo, with his wife and two children.
The story is told through the eyes of a Private Tamura who, after being thrown out by his own company, chooses to desert the military altogether and wanders aimlessly through the Philippine jungle during the Allied campaign. Descending into delirium, Tamura is forced to confront nature, his childhood faith, hunger, his own mortality, and in the end, cannibalism.
Literary significance and criticism
The book received the Yomiuri Prize and, along with Tsukamaru made, is perhaps the best-known of Ooka's work among English readers. An English language translation by Ivan Morris was completed in 1957. It was made into a film of the same name in 1959, directed by Kon Ichikawa and starring Eiji Funakoshi. David C. Stahl has noted that Morris expunged sections where the narrator makes clear that he is manipulating the memoir, while Ichikawa focused on the helplessness of the individual in the face of war. In both versions, the Tamura character is more passive and weak than in the original work.
Morris, writing in his introduction in the 1957 English version that he translated, praised the book as one of the most 'powerful accounts of the obscenity of war that has ever been written'. In his view, the only other comparable novels of the Second World War, published up to that time (1957), were Stalingrad by Theodor Plievier (1948) and Look Down in Mercy by Walter Baxter (1951).
any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper. Manufactured in the United States of America. FIRST EDITION Originally published in Japan as n o b i. & CONTENTS 1 Departure 3 2 The Forest Path 13 3 Fires on the Plain 20 4 The Rejects 30 5 Purple Shadows 39 6 Night 45 T The Roar of Guns 55 8 The River 60 9 The Moonlight 64 10 The Crowing of the Cock
go around bragging about it like you. But you can certainly read about it or see it in the films any day of the week.” “Yes, I know. I went to see The Mother Whom Once I Knew. But I got so fed up I had to leave halfway through.” “What the hell made you tell me all this now in the middle of the night?” “Nothing special. I just wanted to get it out of my sys tem. . . . Well, Ma got thrown out of the house after I was bom. I stayed on, but no one told me anything about it. Then when I got older and
have gone to church. The church was a rectangular building, constructed, like those I had seen on Cebu, in the style of a basilica. High above the rough fagade was the familiar cross, but it now had a somewhat swollen appearance. I realized with dismay that I did not feel any of the expected ex citement on seeing it close at hand. I pushed the half-open door and walked in. The church was packed with people, all kneeling in prayer. A voiceless hum hovered over their bowed heads. From the
with water, and mur mured: “What’s that you say?” We hurried on. Many of the bodies had begun to swell like the ones that I had seen in the seaside village: these, I knew, were ^ 142 ^ Fires on the Plain really dead. Maggots drifted on the surface of the water, and, gathering in clumps of grass a few feet from the corpses, floated there in wriggling masses. The corpses were devoid of everything but the sodden uniforms that were stretched tightly over their bloated bodies. Their shoes had
Here they had stood for decades and decades before I passed beneath them, and here they would con tinue to stand long after my death. To be sure, there was nothing strange in this thought, nor in the thought that I would never again walk through this unknown Philip pine forest. What was strange was the complete con tradiction existing in my mind between the knowledge that I was passing here for the first time and the certainty that I would never pass here in the future. This was by no means