Kirkus Star


Email this review


Compelling and disturbing is this novel about life in the Japanese army by a former soldier of the emperor in the ""Chinese Incident"" and World War II. Although the author, educated in America, appropriately ""demilitarizes"" the protagonist at the close of the book, he has not blurred the picture with his obviously pacifist sympathies. The narratives, concerned with the fortunes of a squad in the Army during the China campaign, reproduces with a camera eye war realized as a religious rite ingrained in the blood of soldiers, calling forth frenzied sacrifice and automation obedience. Although the hero, Takeo Yamamoto, is finally released from the bloody idealism of the Army, nevertheless he has moments of exhilaration in the solemn obeisances to the Emperor, shouting as he faces the East on the Emperor's birthday. In the quiet narrative, many scenes are memorable and through a wide range of personalities with varied backgrounds- from Majors to First Year Soldiers - a rounded portrait of the many rigidly-defined strata of the Army organization is achieved. Ruthless burning of villages, beating of the First Year Soldiers by their superiors, unrestrained pillaging, and the inhumanity in military organization -- all these become reconciled in this lucid portrait with a refinement of behavior, geisha establishments, and a pseudo-religious etiquette fantastic to the Western mind. As well as being a compelling novel of men at war this is a revealing picture of a feudalistic phenomenon in our century and the idealistic framework within which we must reach understanding. This should find a large audience, as a Japanese .

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1950
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin