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Fires On The Plain

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  600 ratings  ·  58 reviews
"This haunting novel explores the complete degradation and isolation of a man by war. The book is set on the island of Leyte in the Philippines during World War II, where the Japanese army is disintegrating under the hammer blows of the American landings. Within this larger disintegration is another, that of a single human being, Private Tamura. The war destroys each of hi ...more
246 pages
Published (first published 1951)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,428)
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Mariel
Apr 22, 2011 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: under the blood red sky
Recommended to Mariel by: sunday bloody sunday
I'm nervous about writing a review about Fires on the Plain. There's a good chance I'm going to feel stupid and guilty about this after the fact (stopping in my tracks to feel hazy hot stupidity on my face. "I'm an idiot! And what does it all MEAN?!"). Why can't I be a useful reviewer, at least once? So this book is amazing. It deserves serious thought. I'm a hard thinker (it's not that), it's just that I'm a deeply confused individual, as I said. So Fires on the Plain is about the infrastructur ...more
Kazuko Kato
What I found most interesting in the book is the portrayal of the social degradation the protagonist goes through due to the circumstances of the war. Tamura is not someone that is particularly memorable or who has worth noting qualities. He is just one more soldier in the army who is being rejected everywhere he goes and whose actions are condemnable in the eyes of his superiors which is why he is dismissed from the unit. As the book goes on Tamura shows that he is stronger that I would’ve thou ...more
Richard Stuart
It is a marvel how our intuition leads us to engage in the process of transmuting our own internal strife through experiencing similar circumstances in our external world. I have now just read two books in succession dealing with starvation and the tenuous hold on reality the mind goes through when the body is deprived. "Hunger" by Knut Hamsun and this book, "Fires on the Plain" by Shohei Ooka. So what, as a conscious person would ask, is in my own life "starving"?

Ooka's book is a terrible desce
...more
Offuscatio
"La enfermedad, cuando se ha perdido toda la esperanza de cura, también pierde su importancia."

"Hogueras en la llanura", contrariamente a mis expectativas, es más bien una fábula sobre un soldado raso que, una vez abandonado por una tropa derrotada, se enfrenta a la desesperación, la más profunda soledad, la hambruna y la locura. Si no fuera por haber caído en la trampa de leer el prólogo al inicio, diría que el punto de inflexión llega con el capítulo 28 ("Un hambriento y un loco"). No obstante
...more
Chilly SavageMelon
I'm a sucker for this dark Japanese, existential stuff but this was really good. At least up until near the end, when it bogged down in the madness, quasi-Christian babbling, monkey eating which turns out to be cannibalism, possible admissions of self-cannibalism etc etc. But the first half of the story is a tale well told.
AC
A very interesting book - some passage of deep beauty, others of some obscurity. It is hard to tell what the book would be like in Japanese. I have a deep mistrust of reading anything in translation (though I am reading a great deal of translation at this point in my life).
Chet
This edition started with a lengthy introduction by the translator, Ivan Morris, which revealed much of the story's content. I recommend not reading the introduction until after reading the book. Morris does do a good review of the meanings behind the images presented in the story. I do recommend reading the intoduction... after the story though.
.
The story sets the reader between the two pincers of God and man. As the story is narrated, Private Tamura is constantly brought closer and closer to b
...more
eric mallory morgan
probably the most abstract war novel i've ever read. this book is fucking wild.
Adam Monson
a funny little story about the degradation of man.
Kevin

A desperate Japanese army on a small Island in the Philippines, resorts to abandoning members of their own in a last-ditch effort to strengthen their ranks before the inevitable invasion. Private Tamura is one of these soldiers left to fend for himself, unable to return to his unit and unable to “pay” for treatment at the army hospital. Private Tamura is left to wander Leyte Island with neither a reason to live nor a reason to die. The instinct to survive is a powerful pull that lead Tamura to c
...more
Andrea Giovana
Recently, I've decided to read less historical books on war and more literature books, specially non-western ones in other to attain a greater scope of the general feeling of life within the front, implying that every soldier suffers while experiencing it.
Although being written by a Japanese French scholar, with lots of Western and Christian knowledge, this Japanese book has definitely startled me. The story is quite simple being basically the comings and goings of a Japanese serviceman, Tamura
...more
Richard
I read this book as a teen-ager. The message I got from the book was that if you want something done . . . do it yourself. That maybe the wrong message but it was a page turner. The story is about a Japanese soldier serving on the island of Leyte in the Philippines during WWII. It is basically the story of one man to fight the battle of survival, alone, in the face of overwhelming odds and events against him. It's a Japanese classic that applies to everyone, anywhere.
Alyson
Aug 26, 2008 Alyson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dieters
In college, I wrote a paper on the role of colors in the book. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've read it since then, and how much I wish everybody would read it so we could discuss it, like, weekly. And write papers on it.

It's kind of like a J-lit "Apocalypse Now."

After you finish this book, you might be a vegetarian for a few weeks or more.
Christine Cruso
I do not claim to be an expert on Japanese translation, but this book was dry. I would very interested in what the book is like before translation. It was completely void of expression and feeling. It tells the tale of an abandoned Japanese soldier during a period of war. He meets fellow soldiers along his journey and tells his story of survival almost to the point of delusion and death. Along the way, he periodically struggles with his belief in God only to summarize at the end of his horrific ...more
Kristina
The Japanese point of view of WWII is never going to be pretty, but damn. Still, I made my way through this book pretty quickly.
Nona
You will feel as if you yourself are straying in the tropical thick forest with a young Japanese soldier in the WWII.
David
About the only good thing about the 29-hour door-to-door trip from Victoria, BC, to La Serena, Chile and back that I have to make for work once a year or so is the chance to put on the sound-suppressing headphones and do some serious reading since I've never acquired the ability to sleep while travelling.

This is another novel I first heard about while reading Embracing Defeat and helped make the return trip from Chile go by much more quickly than normal. Set on the Philippine island of Leyte, t
...more
Adam
I have mixed feeling about this book. The H-Net review of David Stahl's book that analyzes the writings of Shohei Ooka increased my appreciation of the "Fires on the Plain." (http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev....). I did not connect Tamura's amnesia with an effort to conceal his actions in increasingly desperate situations. The book traces the descent of a Japanese soldier into insanity at the tail end of World War II well. As starvation sets in, soldiers contemplate actions previously unthin ...more
Celeste
I nabbed this book from the book room of the school. The cover artwork looked interesting, and it's become something of a goal of mine to go through and read as many of the books in there that I can.

First off, it's a translation. I don't like that. I'm one of those purist folks who think that literature is best taken in it's native tongue if at all possible. Alas, that would cut down on my reading of many great books, so I have to go against that principle of mine. But I feel that I don't connec
...more
Kkinugawa
The book is one of the most war novels in Japan. Throughout the story, the author tried to examine how people would act when they are in extreme condition. Shohei used war as a setting to do this experiment, and the factor that makes this book special is an aspect the story which Shohei depicted God in his book. Since it is very unusual to depict God in Japanese novel, I think it would be quite interesting to focus on the way Shohei depicted God in his story. However, while the story was interes ...more
Dan Lopez
A dark and harrowing decent into madness. The main character, Tamura, tries to maintain his sanity while dealing with rejection, isolation, and moral degradation during the chaotic last days of a once mighty and proud army brought to its knee by an overpowering foe. The book is written in the first person and is an easy read. But reading it is anything but easy.
Matti
Private Tamura belongs to the scattered Japanese troops in Philippines trying to hold back the Americans on the eve of collapse. Being sick and in too poor condition for service he is left with two options: field hospital or suicide. Unfortunately soldiers without food for themselves aren't accepted to the hospital so Tamura becomes a drifter having no place to go.

Tamura sees death as his inevitable destiny and he doesn't seem to have any reason to live. However, he can't rationalize why to die
...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
I was genuinely disappointed by this book. I have read so many other "biographies" and novels set in this era that are so much better and convey the horrors of war, of the dehumanisation of the individual, much more starkly. I was hoping for something to match "Black Rain" or "Stalingrad" but instead got a weakly written, over-hyped book instead. We get glimpses of potential in parts; the early section centred around the hospital before the attack, or that potentially very good retreat by the re ...more
Srivathsan Murali
A wonderful tale of what a soldier went through in the fields of Vietnam fighting the Americans. The author portrayed the emotions that change and shape the soldiers beliefs. A wonderful tale.
Kristin
Haunting, beautiful, disturbing, and at times morbidly funny--I absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in the horrors and the ambivalences of war and human survival.
Ted D
An incredibly moving study of how isolation can impact on a man. Highly recommended.
Hannah Miller
i loved this completely fucked up book.
Bouran
he eat his finger .. I hate war
Hoezodanbooks
I read somewhere that this novel could be considered a Japanese Apocalypse Now. It isn't, as it lacks for example the intellectual depth and larger-than-life symbolism of the Coppola masterpiece. It reads like a movie script though, so I can imagine that the Kon Ichikawa 1959 movie version is more powerful than this novel, in which the writing is average and the backstory of the Tamura character insufficient, but the images, oh these images, they are extremely powerful!

2.7 / 5
Verona Flowers
Si quieres deprimirte debes leer este libro.

PD: Deteste a Tamura :/
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Shōhei Ōoka (Ōoka Shōhei / 大岡 昇平) was a Japanese novelist, literary critic, and translator of French literature active in Shōwa period Japan. Ōoka belongs to the group of postwar writers whose World War II experiences at home and abroad figure prominently in their works. Over his lifetime, he contributed short stories and critical essays to almost every literary magazine in Japan.
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“People seem unable to admit this principle of chance. Our spirits are not strong enough to stand the idea of life being a mere succession of chances—the idea, that is, of infinity. Each of us in his individual existence, which is contained between the chance of his birth and the chance of his death, identifies those few incidents that have arisen through what he styles his “will”; and the thing that emerges consistently from this he calls his “character” or again his “life.” Thus we contrive to comfort ourselves; there is, in fact, no other way for us to think.” 2 likes
“Again, was it not this same presentiment of death that made it seem so strange to me now that I should never again walk along this path in the Philippine forest? In our own country, even in the most distant or inaccessible part, this feeling of strangeness never comes to us, because subconsciously we know that there is always a possibility of our returning there in the future. Does not our entire life-feeling depend upon this inherent assumption that we can repeat indefinitely what we are doing at the moment?” 2 likes
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