Richard Stuart's Reviews > Fires on the Plain

Fires on the Plain by Shōhei Ōoka
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Mar 18, 12

bookshelves: japanese
Read from March 16 to 18, 2012, read count: 1

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 descent into hell, but lucid for the most part so as to not spare us its horror. In fact, isn't it the horror of Tamura's war experience that dislodges his hibernating thirst for spiritual accompaniment? The deserted church, site of a massacre, is this not a central metaphor for the entire book? Man, blind with anger and fear, butchers his fellow man but has not amputated his own connection with the eternal, and so is wracked with guilt and flees from the sight and light of God. But who can flee from themselves? Only the insane.

Tamura kills next to that same church, and he too runs away. As his crimes continue to multiply in number, they grow in their grotesqueness as well. Yet, all the while, he is just trying to survive. He is doing nothing more than you or I might have done in the exact same circumstances. And although his physical body is going through the motions, his consciousness is still actively trying to stop his moribund vessel from it hateful acts (the separation of his left and right sides). He is not to blame for the circumstances his finds himself in, but his is responsible for how he decides to go about living in them. Sometimes survival has a price that is too much to bear.

To me the book is saying that in absence of God, man will do the most monstrous and deplorable acts against his fellow man and himself. It says this quite effectively. It says this quite well.
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message 2: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Wow, great review, this sounds good. Especially in comparison to Hunger. When you mention that he 'kills next to that same church', it made me think of the play he tries to write in Hunger.


Richard Stuart Hey, thanks! Your reviews are damn amazing: so thorough and insightful... they leave me scratching my head saying, "what else can I say?" haha
After reading this I can't help but think of the books "Heart of Darkness" and "The Violent Bear It Away". I could start a Horror Shelf and add these three books... and "Of Human Bondage" too! hahaha


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