BETWEEN TEDIUM AND TERROR by Sy M. Kahn

BETWEEN TEDIUM AND TERROR

A Soldier's World War II Diary, 1943-45
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The compelling diary of a young man from Manhattan during the Pacific campaign--and one of the few WW II diaries published to date. Kahn (English/University of the Pacific) is 19 when, in 1943, he finds himself en route to Australia, ``anxious to get there and be a part of the telling blow that shall smash the enemy and forever end war.'' Instead, he finds himself part of a dragged-out conflict in which he's subjected to multiple bombings, strafings, torpedo hits, and jungle diseases, including jaundice, malaria, and skin ailments. Convinced he won't survive, Kahn resolves to record everything. He notes sleeping arrangements (``I shall never forget this bed. It is seven feet long, 2 1/2 feet wide. It has a pipe frame...''). He moons over girlfriends, especially one Carolyn, who grows up to be the mystery writer Amanda Cross. He and his buddies get drunk on vanilla extract. He watches a man burn to death. The vagaries of fate dispense life and death (``Three fellows lived in a shack close by. One got up to urinate shortly before the attack. He was saved, the other two got it''). Encountering enemy POWs, he's moved to pity. Nonetheless, when the A-bomb is dropped, he registers no remorse, noting the countless lives that would have been lost in an Allied invasion of Japan. Later, in the eeriest passages here, he finds himself in Yokohama a month after the surrender, selling cigarettes to passersby, visiting a geisha house, observing the wreckage of an empire, trying to put it all together: ``I do not quite comprehend myself and the conflicting myriad feelings of shyness, compassion, unreality, and tension that I have felt all day.'' Kahn makes an ideal diarist: objective, observant, with a spicy dash of introspection. A WW II document of note. (Thirty-one photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-252-01858-3
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993




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