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Saturday, January 10, 2009

BRANCH LINE TO BURMA



I've only skimmed thru this so far, but what's truly remarkable about it is how parochial-sounding the author's voice is. Published in 1958, it's like a dispatch from some lost corner of Middle England where the horrific abuses suffered by the POWs are oddly muted by a narrator who talks in clipped BBC English...the appalling chronic starvation and disease are described in terms that sound more like some awkward muddle involving members of the Village Fete Committee. A far cry from the constant ramped-up hyperbole and mediaspeak of Post-Millennial Airstrip One. Religion and cricket are mentioned constantly and there is a mixture of condensation and contempt for all foreigners - not just their Japanese tormentors, but the Australians, the French, anyone born outside of Surrey.

"Frasier was a cheerful, scrounging Cockney, whose father had brought him up in an atmosphere of boxing-booths and East End boozers."

The section in which starving POWs put on musical reviews and variety shows, making their own props and scenery, and dressing up in drag to sing popular songs is like an episode of "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" on acid. Senior officers are excused from the hellish work-details, but "do their bit" by reading extracts of John Buchan novels to soldiers who are delirious with chronic malaria.

The foreword is by 'Earl' Mountbatten of Burma, 'natch.

1 Comments:

At 1:44 am, Blogger Andrew Swingler said...

Thats one heckuva cover.

 

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