THE ANCIENT POND by Courtney Browne


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Browne's laconic novel moves through the alleys of Kobe, Japan, in 1950. Kershaw, an embittered ex-prisoner of war, is searching for Major Terski, the vicious director of the camp, still at large. David, also English, is living with a Japanese woman above the Sakura bar which she owns. He takes up Kershaw's search when an order comes from home to produce an article or leave Japan. This is the plot line--the search for Geraki and what those questioned reveal about Japanese life--in its codes of living and in the havoc that war wrought. Reading to find out, one discovers also the naive soldiers, orphans in black market gangs, the harsh life of peasants, and finally the full story of a family ruined--Teraki's.... In flat, serviceman prose, with much matter-of-fact dialogue, Browne does manage to make his shabby and despairing images convincing. He obviously knew Japan in those days and, imperceptibly, he also shows that callousness can emerge from selfish indecision and how bitterness can burn itself out through knowledge. The Ancient Pond is that strange book which, simply and dully written, does generate meaning.

Publisher: Harper & Row