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The Bridge Over the River Kwai

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One of the finest war novels ever written, Bridge on the River Kwai tells the story of three POWs who endure the hell of the Japanese camps on the Burma-Siam railway - Colonel Nicholson, a man prepared to sacrifice his life but not his dignity; Major Warden, a modest hero, saboteur and deadly killer; Commander Shears, who escaped from hell but was ordered back. Ordered by the Japanese to build a bridge, the Colonel refuses, as it is against regulations for officers to work with other ranks. The Japanese give way but, to prove a point of British superiority, construction of the bridge goes ahead - at great cost to the men under Nicholson's command.

207 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1952

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About the author

Pierre Boulle

113 books236 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Pierre Boulle (20 February 1912 – 30 January 1994) was a French novelist best known for two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai (1952) and Planet of the Apes (1963) that were both made into award-winning films.

Boulle was an engineer serving as a secret agent with the Free French in Singapore, when he was captured and subjected to two years' forced labour. He used these experiences in The Bridge over the River Kwai, about the notorious Death Railway, which became an international bestseller. The film by David Lean won many Oscars, and Boulle was credited with writing the screenplay, because its two genuine authors had been blacklisted.

His science-fiction novel Planet of the Apes, where intelligent apes gain mastery over humans, was adapted into a series of five award-winning films that spawned magazine versions and popular themed toys.

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5 stars
3,078 (32%)
4 stars
3,682 (38%)
3 stars
2,111 (22%)
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438 (4%)
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148 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 466 reviews
Profile Image for Brett C.
805 reviews181 followers
May 2, 2021
I enjoyed this WW2 story that inspired the 1957 movie. The story follows two plots that come to a point in the end, like the movie, Colonel Nicholson and the POW construction crew building the bridge. The other being the demolitions/sabotage team conducting a special operations warfare style mission to blow up the bridge.

Colonel Nicholson was prideful, a hard-line disciplinarian, and 'snob' of the officer corps. Colonel Saito was the strict Japanese camp commandant under pressure from the Japanese High Command to build the bridge at any cost. Major Shears was the commando leading a small team into the jungle to demolition the bridge. These three characters created tension and overlapping dynamic that made a good book in my opinion.

I liked this book because Pierre Boulle does a good job at telling the story. The use of description in the writing added quality to the plot. I equally enjoyed the book and the movie. Thanks!
Profile Image for Bill.
219 reviews48 followers
June 24, 2020
I enjoyed this tale of obsession within a parable on the futility and absurdity of war, loosely based on Japanese use of British prisoners of war to build a railroad bridge in the jungles of Siam during World War II.

Boulle as narrator opens the novel equating the values and behavior of the West, specifically the British, and more specifically its symbol, Col. Nicholson, with those of the East, i.e. the Japanese, i.e. and its symbol, Col. Saito.
During the last war 'saving face' was perhaps as vitally important to the British as it was to the Japanese. Perhaps it dictated the behavior of the former, without their being aware of it, as forcibly and fatally as it did that of the latter, and no doubt that of every race in the world. Perhaps the conduct of each of the two enemies, superficially so dissimilar, was in fact simply a different though equally meaningless manifestation of the same spiritual reality. Perhaps the mentality of the Japanese colonel, Saito, was essentially the same as that of his prisoner, Colonel Nicholson.
Published in 1952, and written as Allied war crimes trials of Japanese soldiers were just winding down, Boulle's suggestion that both sides were driven by the same beliefs of cultural superiority would have been unusually broad-minded for a former Free French agent and prisoner of war.

More expected is the racism that both the characters and the narrator exhibit in describing the Japanese. Grating on the ear today as it might be, that was the language virtually all Allied troops and citizens used during the war and at the time the book was written.

But the driving force of the book is Col. Nicholson's obsession with proving the superiority of the West and its technology, and of the British soldier's character, by building a railroad bridge that will be used to help defeat the Allies. He reminded me of Dean Jocelin, the protagonist of William Golding's The Spire, whose vision of building a spire above his cathedral takes on a tragic life of its own.

Just as Boulle often departed from history in writing his novel, director David Lean often departed from the novel in making his 1957 Oscar-winning film of the same name. It's a tense action classic considered one of the best World War II movies ever made.
Profile Image for Steve.
945 reviews140 followers
September 6, 2019
I decided to finally read this "classic" after a trip to Bangkok late last year. My colleague and I took a day trip to (and, indeed, walked across) the Bridge Over the River Kwai and visited the nearby military cemetery (which is attractive, well organized and maintained, and, well, moving), and the extremely informative museum. (OK, we rode elephants too, but that's not relevant.) Of course, all of this merely reinforces that this popular book is a work of FICTION, as was the movie. One of the real highlights of the museum is the video interviews with a number of survivors - both Japanese and POW's. Some of the interviews highlight the inaccuracies of the movie, etc. But, again, it was one of the best - most engaging - small museums I've seen anywhere. As for the book, it's a great story, and it's very nicely written (or, more accurately, in my case, translated). The descriptions and the vocabulary are vivid, the story proceeds at a nice pace, and the characters merit your interest.

Topical supplement: If this topic interests you, I strongly recommend Richard Flanagan's Booker Prize winning Narrow Road to the True North..... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
Want to read
October 14, 2020
Movie Review
Master film maker David Lean did a great job while adapting this book for the big screen.It was a great success commercially and won the Best Picture Oscar as well.

Alec Guinness plays Colonel Nicholson,a British prisoner of war in a Japanese camp.He would rather die for his principles than give in to the demands of Colonel Saito,the Japanese camp commandant.

Those principles are not worth dying for,however.If his officers are made to do manual labour,he would rather be shot than agree.When the Japanese order his men to build a bridge (and the officers are exempted) he wants his men to do as good a job as he can,regardless of the fact that such an act would help the enemy.

William Holden plays an American,who succeeds in escaping from the camp,and is then asked to go back there.Jack Hawkins is a British officer tasked with destroying the completed bridge

An engrossing film,superb location photography in the Asian jungles.The shock ending adds to the impact.
Profile Image for Cateline.
297 reviews
January 29, 2013
Three stars for The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle. I liked it, but man 'o man, it annoyed me. A product of it's times (written in 1954), Kwai is both stereotypical and stiff in the telling of a 1942, WWII, Pacific Theatre event.

I suppose most have at least seen or heard of the film starring Alec Guinness and William Holden. The stiff-necked Brit Colonel Nicholson whose pride blinds his patriotism somehow and the attending figures that surround him. Colonol Saito his Japanese counterpart that is head of that particular POW camp and the bridge that must be built for the Japanese invasion to go as planned.

I'd seen most of the film many years ago, and really Guinness is perfect for the part of Nicholson, breathing a life into the character that is somehow flatter in the book. But I must get back to the book. Sorry. :)

Blind pride. Men following orders. Oppressive jungle temperatures. Partially unprepared insurgents. Boulle really brings out the similarities of nationalities, probably a bit ahead of his time, I think. A quote of the first page of the book kind of sums it up.

"The insuperable gap between East and West that exists in some eyes is perhaps nothing more than an optical illusion. Perhaps it is only the conventional way of expressing a popular opinion based on insufficient evidence and masquerading as a universally recognized statement of fact, for which there is no justification at all, not even the plea that it contains an element of truth. During the last war, "saving face" was perhaps as vitally important to the British as it was to the Japanese. Perhaps it dictated the behavior of the former, without their being aware of it, as forcibly and as fatally as it did of the latter, and no doubt that of every other race in the world.

I like that, in other words, we are all the same underneath the skin, as it were. Nationalism, racism and whatever other "isms" one can think of are essentially superfluous. It is true, and I wish more would realize it. We are creeping up on that thought, but faster, please!
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
772 reviews1,498 followers
July 19, 2016
This is a book where I will fully admit that my modern perspective is a huge part of why I couldn't stand it. Studied as an historical text, with extensive contextualization before reading, it might come off different, but... from a 2016 perspective, this is a deeply (insistently, even ardently) racist book about... supreme stupidity, to be honest, in the guise of honor.

It's the racism that bugs me the most, honestly. I know when this book was written, and I know that the Japanese Army was responsible for truly heinous war crimes during World War Two, and I know that people in this time very likely would have been this racist, and yet - none of that makes it any easier to ignore. The Japanese people and their culture are denigrated at almost every turn in this book, by the characters but also by the narrative prose. They're referred to as children, savages, incompetent at every turn, incapable of accomplishing the feats of construction that the British can, or of running a well-organized camp; the Japanese commander, Saito, is repeatedly said to be 'shamed' by Colonel Nicholson's behavior, and to lash out in petty vengeance for it - there's no nuance to this portrayal. It's cartoonish, almost outlandish; it reads like propaganda. Not a single Japanese character is shown to be at all capable, in any sphere, whereas all the Brits are uniformly excellent. (In the background, you can hear me making extravagant gagging noises.)

And Nicholson - I have this pet peeve, developed after reading a lot of substandard fantasy, about characters who cling to the idea of honorable comportment to the point of idiocy. They're always written as if it's supposed to be admirable, and it never is, because pragmatic action would do significantly more good. Write this as a heroic fault, absolutely, but not a heroic strength! And it's true, in the end Nicholson's pride is treated as the failing it is, but that's after over a hundred pages extolling how virtuous and worthy a leader he is, even as he drives his men to not only complete but improve upon a construction which will aid enemy forces in attacking more British soldiers. All of the fawning prose doesn't just get erased because, in the last chapter, his foolishness is called by name.

At least, if I put myself through reading such thinly disguised propaganda, it was only 150 pages of it.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
651 reviews22 followers
April 29, 2012
I always feel odd rating a classic, as it is so far beyond my power to comment on, whether for good or for evil. I both loved the book and hated it, and now that I've gotten all the way through it, I will have to process and then read it again to try to get my mind around it.

I spent most of the book struggling to understand what I was reading. I couldn't connect with the characters, especially Nicholson--I spent the first part of the book beating my head against the wall trying to understand what he was doing and why. Finally I did some research into British army customs and regulations of the time, which helped me out. I kept going "But the first duty of an officer is to escape! This is aid and comfort to the enemy! How is this not treason?", until I manage to grasp that at the time, the first duty of an officer was to secure the lives of his men. I couldn't get around the extremely paternal attitude of the officers toward the enlisted men, until I realized that I was approaching the situation as a modern American, and wasn't taking into account the still class-based structure of the British army of the time, when the officers were still gentry and the enlisted men were still commoners, by and large. Eventually I was able to accept that I was reading something of a very different time and place, and instead of stumbling over the racism and paternalism, I had to just accept it for what it was and move on. The book is, as they say, what it is.

I saw the movie first, and I had no idea how much they'd changed the ending. I was shocked at the end, although having pondered it, I think that the book's ending is more true to the characters than the 11th-hour redemption of the movie. I was surprised that, for such an action and suspense heavy plot, that much of the action took place in narrative form, of characters telling other characters what happened instead of following it in "real time," so to speak. That disturbed the flow of the story for me, taking me out of the moment. I'm assuming that that was a style choice on the part of the author, although I have no idea why. I feel that the true application of the novel would not be in military history classes, but rather in psychology and sociology classes, to study the impact of stress and the mind's extraordinary abilities to take care of itself, and the level of cognitive dissonance we're all capable of to justify our actions with our deeply held beliefs and just keep going. How knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow, and Pierre Boulle, know.
Profile Image for Nahid  Dhrubo .
120 reviews18 followers
March 27, 2022
'অ্যা ফিউ গুড ম্যান' নামে একটা সিনেমায় জ্যাক নি���লসনের বলা একটা স্পীচ আমার অসম্ভব পছন্দের, বিশেষ করে ঐ পার্টটা 'ইউ ক্যান্ট হ্যান্ডেল দ্যা ট্রুথ সান'। এই বইয়েও একজন কর্নেল আছেন যার নাম নিকলসন। কোন এক বিচিত্র কারণে, এই উপন্যাসটা পড়তে পড়তে আমার বারবার মনে পড়েছে জ্যাক নিকলসনের মুখ।

ওয়্যার প্রিজনার নিয়ে লেখা এই উপন্যাসটার মধ্যে যেমন আর্মিদের শৃঙ্খলাবদ্ধ জীবনের ছাপ পাওয়া যায় ঠিক তেমন আত্মসম্মান, সুপিরিয়র কমপ্লেক্সেরও দেখা মেলে দারুণভাবে। তবে, এসবকিছু ছাপিয়ে উপন্যাসটার মধ্যে পাওয়া যায় এক চমৎকার থ্রিলারের স্বাদ। যুদ্ধ ও যুদ্ধ সংক্রান্ত উপন্যাস / গল্প পড়তে আমার চিরকালই ভালো লাগে। যুদ্ধ সংক্রান্ত অন্য অনেক বইয়ে পলিটিক্যাল কনফ্লিক্টকে বড় করে দেখানো হলেও এই বইয়ের গল্পে যুদ্ধ মূলত ক্যামিও রোল প্লে করেছে আর যুদ্ধকে পাশ কাটিয়ে পাঠক আমার মনে জায়গা করে নিয়েছে ক্যাপ্টেন ওয়ার্ডেন, মেজোর সিয়ারস এবং অবশ্যই কর্নেল নিকলসন।
Profile Image for Bryan--The Bee’s Knees.
407 reviews57 followers
July 12, 2019
2.5 Rounded up.

I have not seen the film that is based on the book, though I can imagine that the film might bring out some of the personalities better, especially given the cast. Boulle's idea for the book is certainly intriguing, but until the last few pages, it lacks drama. For such a short book (really almost a novella), I thought Boulle repeated himself, particularly about how great western engineering was, and how the British soldier was such a better example of humanity than his Japanese counterpart. I could make allowances for some of this--but the repetition of this theme throughout gave the book a xenophobic cast that detracted from the story. No doubt Boulle's own experiences gave him a jaundiced view of the Japanese (he served in a Japanese labor camp), so I certainly don't begrudge him his opinions, I just thought the ideas were overelaborated in the book.

I'm eager to see the film now, because I feel like there was a lot of depth to this story that the book didn't completely plumb.
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,675 reviews132 followers
July 13, 2020
This was, in my personal opinion, a complete stinker.

This book is raved about by so many people, it and the movie it inspired were the forerunners of a great deal of historical literature, film and documentaries about the bridge in question and the Japanese WWII prison camps that worked on the Burma railway. Some have called it 'a classic war novel' but I found it appallingly badly written (or possibly translated, I would not know), stereotyped way past the point of caricature, incredibility verbose and insultingly incorrect on historical details.

Perhaps, if this was the first story of it's kind I had read, or if I knew nothing about the actual history, I might have tolerated it better but no matter what it would NEVER have been a good book.

First; The writing! It was very verbose, florid and clumsy. You have to give it some leeway for being a translation, sure. The romance languages do not always translate easily to English. But the descriptions of the camps and the conditions were vague and unconvincing, while the descriptions of the jungles and climate were pretty lame, considering the author was meant to have been in a few. On the other hand, I had to endure pages of a young soldiers inner agonising over the fact that he may have to kill a man with a knife, which was unlikely and honestly got boring.

In terms of story structure it was all over the place. We start with the POW's in the camp led by a batshite crazy Colonel as described by a medic who was the only even slightly likely character in the whole book. But after having set up the POW camp and the bridge as the main portion of the story, but about halfway through the author seems to get bored with them (which I understand as I, too, was bored with them) and then the story drifts off to the separate team that have been sent to blow up the bridge and which have no link at all to the POWs. Three men, almost no action, pages and pages of florid waffle. Did anyone REALLY enjoy this novel? Or did they watch the movie and pretend to have read it?

Second; the characterisation! Yes, it is as racist as you could possibly imagine. Actually, it is worse. Many historical novels are racist, sexist or imperialist in any one of many ways and I read a lot of historical stuff so I can usually read past that, accepting it as the perspective of the time in which it was written. Post WWII there was a lot of racism against the Japanese, which is the sort of response that can be understood (if not enjoyed), and during the war, as with any war, it is an effective technique to demonise and deminish the enemy. This book was by far one of the worst of this kind I have ever read though, the author could not mention a single Japanese character without abusing their physical appearance, he could not mention the Japanese as a nation without sneering at how they are 'primitives' and just generally subpar to Europeans. Leaving aside the fact that Japan is a old, rich, far from primitive culture, the racism was still excessive. Worse! He did the same thing to the 'Siamese' and that infuriated me completely. Thailand is an incredibly old, immensely civilized culture which I both adore and respect, and THEY WERE ALLIES in this scenario! There is no excuse at all for diminishing and abusing them, for calling them savages when they are your guides and allies.

Next was a really, really odd and even more icky element. We all know that the French and the English have issues, Pierre Boulle chose to write this novel using English characters rather than French and as far as I can see, he did that purely for the purpose of creating nasty, childish and stupid caricatures, as a sly way to mock the English. The Colonel was idiotic, the behaviour of the English POW's was so very far from reality I can only assume Pierre never met one, or maybe he did and still chose character assassination on these men that had suffered so much. While for a while I tried to believe that it was the translation that made the characters so immensely unbelievable - by page 50 I could no longer believe that. So, racist against the Japanese, the Siamese, AND the English. This author is a piece of work!

Third; the history! Here one might have expected the author to shine, since the fictional story claims to have used Pierre Boulle's own life experience working in Malaysia plantations and for allied forces in Singapore and Indochina during World War II. Well, wherever Pierre hung out I am dead certain that it was nowhere near the actual Burma Railway or with anyone who was really there. The things that the workers on that railway suffered were horrendous but Pierre barely mentions them, a casual wave of his hand about not having enough clothes. A glancing mention that the medic in the team was not happy about the conditions. There was one, pretty moderate beating. Knowing what actually occurred on the Hellfire pass and on the death railway - reading this actually made me sick with fury on behalf of the veterans.

I don't mind that the actual bridge and the mission to sabotage are fictional, that is fine for a novel. But the description of the British Colonel virtually subjugating the Japanese commandant of the work camp that was so idiotically ludicrous that I could barely read it. The complete lack of understanding on the part of the author of ANY of the actual events or conditions....ugh!

I will leave you with a couple of excerpts that annoyed me :
"The officers sir, the British officers. They are not being made to work... they are all in full uniform... badges of rank and all" [pg 92]

The Siamese were not qualified to appreciate the technical genius of Captain Reeves... but they were fully aware this was no shapeless scaffolding in the usual Japanese style. Primitive people have an instinctive appreciation of applied art and design. Primitive? Thai architecture PRIMITIVE. This dreck won awards?

Pretty horrid book really, if you are considering it maybe instead check out any of the really good stories based on real experiences. If you look at the page count as I did and think 'it is only 157 pages, I can do that easily' I warn you that most of those pages are as painful as having fingernails pulled.
Profile Image for Huy.
771 reviews
December 16, 2018
đọc chán quá trời, mãi mới lếch được đến cuối, sách chiến tranh mà chả thấy gì gây cấn, chưa kể tác giả phân biệt chủng tộc quá, tâng bốc phương Tây, dìm phương Đông, được cái đoạn kết hài :))
Profile Image for Thomas Stroemquist.
1,520 reviews126 followers
November 21, 2022
Even 'excusing' the blatant racism and derogation with atrocities committed, victor's writing history and the age of this thing - and 'excusing' the bad narrative again with age and the translation from original French, this was in no way an enjoyable book.

The description of characters is so poor that even the major and named ones feel like cardboard, the rest are pure fillers. Actions and motivations are at no point logical or explained and no-one seem to ever think or doubt themselves or anything else. At the same time, descriptions of mundane things are verbose enough to get you derailed from the story on occasion - which is something, considering the simplicity and shortness of it.

I can't really remember too much about the movie, the ending was different and there were some good actors in it I believe, but this read did not make me want to re-watch it, probably ever...
Profile Image for Michael Schramm.
11 reviews11 followers
February 18, 2021
After I had read Pierre Boulle’s “Planet of the Apes” and readily enjoying it I knew I had to read his other well know novel, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. Much like the film, the story focuses on a battle of wills between WW2 Colonel Saito of the Imperial Japanese Army and captured British Colonel Nicholson over the construction of a bridge to connect a railway line through Burma and Siam. The latter half focuses more on the clandestine British operation to sabotage the bridge using a contingent of British Special Ops. Overall a very satisfying read.
Profile Image for The Celtic Rebel (Richard).
594 reviews123 followers
June 17, 2018
I read this book the first time as an assignment for World History class in high school. I read the book and then later saw the movie. To me the book was a thousand times better than the movie. Pierre Boulle's writing was excellent and the best thing here is the great character study of these men. Since the book is based on his own experiences during World War II, it is a great look into what life was like for these soldiers.

It is a book that you can't read with 21st Century glasses on. You definitely have to remember this is a picture of what life was like during and after World War II when these feelings were still raw. For the love of history inside of me, I will always love this book.
Profile Image for Shaid Zaman.
271 reviews39 followers
March 30, 2016
মাঝে মাঝে চিন্তা করি সেবা প্রকাশনী না থাকলে আমাদের শৈশব বা কৈশোর কেমন হতো। সল্প মুল্যে অসাধারন সব ক্লাসিক বই গুলো অসাধারন অনুবাদ করে যেভাবে সেবা প্রকাশনী আমাদের কাছে পৌঁছে দিয়েছে বা দিচ্ছে তার তুলনা চলে না। সেবার অনুবাদের মান অসাধারন। দ্য ব্রিজ অন দ্য রিভার কওয়াই এর মতো বই এর সাবলীল অনুবাদ পড়ার সৌভাগ্য করে দেওয়ার জন্য অসংখ্য ধন্যবাদ সেবা প্রকাশনীর প্রতি।
Profile Image for Jakub Horbów.
330 reviews137 followers
September 22, 2022
Sprawnie napisana satyra na brytyjskie oficerstwo, w duchu powieści sensacyjnej przedstawionej w dość zaskakujący, głównie narracyjny, sposób. Tylko i aż tyle. Czyta się przyjemnie, choć czuć jeszcze w tekście brzemię kolonializmu i zachodniej ksenofobii.

Z lektury innych opinii da się zauważyć ciekawą rzecz, mianowicie autorowi udało się stworzyć powieść z na tyle zawoalowaną ironią, że jej odbiór potrafi być dla jednychh oczywiście groteskowy, dla innych z kolei pozytywnie patetyczny.
Profile Image for Іван Синєпалов.
Author 2 books28 followers
February 18, 2022
Книга починається із кількаразово повтореного в різних формулюваннях одного риторичного питання: а що, мовляв, якщо азіати – такі ж самі люди, як ми?

І одразу все наче стає ясно: от іще одна історія про постоколоніальне каяття. Англійці в полоні японців пізнають чужу культуру і зрозуміють, що треба робити любов, а не війну.

Хрін там.

До цієї теми зрештою Буль взагалі не повертається. Перший абзац навмисне зводить читача на манівці, а одразу ж за ним розпочинається історія, в якій насправді і війна-то не має особливого значення.

Це зовсім не воєнна драма. Та й навіть не антивоєнна. Це трагікомедія про людей, безнадійно відірваних від реальності.

У першій частині полковник Ніколсон постає таким собі шляхетним офіцером, що знається на міжнародному праві і понад усе цінує власні честь та гідність. Тож коли японці, які взяли англійців у полон, нібито цю честь англійських офіцерів принижують, він без усяких сумнівів готовий іти на конфлікт.

Але згодом стає очевидно, що ця шляхетність і гідність – то речі в собі. Сферичні у вакуумі. Єдині, хто подає ознаки здорового глузду – то рядові солдати, які саботують будівництво надважливого для японців мосту. Але навіть цей проблиск розуму згасає, коли англійські офіцери знаходять порозуміння з японськими і беруться будувати міст із баранячим завзяттям.

Для полковника Ніколсона це тепер особистий проєкт, привід для гордості. Для капітана Рівза, вправного інженера, – можливість нарешті реалізувати себе. Робота на ворога? Та облиште, їм навіть на думку таке не спадає. Вони виконують обидва свої священні обов’язки: обов’язок полоненого виконувати накази своїх захопників та обов’язок офіцера керувати англійським солдатами, щоб вони виконували роботу як належить і навіть краще.

Ці люди живуть в уявному світі рожевих єдинорогів і навіть не здогадуються про існування якогось іншого світу, де рожеве, залежно від кута зору, забарвлюється чи-то білим, чи-то чорним.

Інша справа – “Компанія Вибух”, завдання якої – підірвати міст Ніколсона до біса. Ці троє відчайдухів-добровольців введені в сюжет саме тоді, коли Ніколсон розкриває своє єство, і вони чудово його врівноважують. У цього загону з розумінням ситуації все гаразд. Ворога треба бити. Інфраструктуру ворога треба нищити. Їхня поява на сторінках – завжди проблиск світла.

Заключна частина книги, де лінії Ніколсона та “Компанії Вибух” мають нарешті перетнутися, – це чудовий трилер, де тремтиш, перегортаючи сторінки, розуміючи, що десь щось неодмінно має піти не так.

Принаймні для когось із персонажів – точно.

Гарне чтиво у дні, коли Росія вовтузиться біля наших кордонів та на окупованій території.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,532 reviews1 follower
December 15, 2018
Comme la grande majorité des membres GR, j'ai lu "Le pont de la rivière Kwaï" après avoir vu le film ce qui a eu une forte influence sur mon expérience. Le film qui est un des grands chef-œuvres d'Hollywood plait carrément beaucoup plus que le roman. Pourtant, ce n'est pas une raison d'être déçu du roman qui est aussi une très belle réussite.
Boulle explique très clairement son jeu. Il commence avec une citation de Joseph Conrad pour annoncer son œuvre est une fable dans la tradition du grand auteur britannique; c'est-à-dire il raconte l'historie d'un anglais en position d'autorité dans un milieu coloniale en Asie. Isolé dans une culture étrangère, le protagoniste choisit de suivre rigoureusement le code d'honneur du métropole. Comme dans la majorité des romans de Conrad, le résultat est tragique.
Plusieurs critiques de GR ont reproché à Boulle d'être raciste ce qui est peut-être vrai. Ce qui est clair est que le racisme est le talon d'Achille du protagoniste qui mène à sa déchéance. Je ne nie pas pourtant qu'il y a plusieurs passages où l'auteur semble partager le racisme de son héros. Je laisse aux autres lecteurs de faire leurs propres interprétations. Surtout j'encourage tout le monde de lire ce roman qui a beaucoup à dire sur l'homme européen dans le contexte impérial.
Profile Image for Smiley .
774 reviews18 followers
November 23, 2018
3.75 stars

I usually came across this fiction during my college years in a number of good bookshops in Bangkok but I thought it was beyond my reading capability so I never picked it up to read. I vaguely knew from my reading that there was an acclaimed film entitled The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957) but, surprisingly, I had never watched it until the menacingly advanced internet era allows us to watch any film at will (provided that we are lucky, that film in question is copyright-free) by simply typing its title on YouTube. In the meantime, I think there is something worth reading and essential to our background information on the film production and more understanding on this military novel in which we can read on this website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bri... However, the river's name itself may pose a problem to those unfamiliar with its pronunciation, especially, to foreigners or tourists who encounter it for the first time. 'Kwai' is transliterated from a Thai word (แคว) so it is right to pronounce the word 'Kwai' as if there is a letter 'r' following (just imagine it with an 'r' like this: Kwair). Please note, there is a pitfall on pronouncing 'Kwai' as you see rhyming with 'eye' because that is another Thai word meaning 'buffalo'.

I agreed with some readers' verdict stating that the film was worth watching and more interesting than reading this 4-part, 25-chapter military fiction. For some reason, I found reading its Parts 1-3 tedious while Part 4 more war-like with intense climax and action. Moreover, there is an inconstancy regarding the promulgated concept on the "Southeast Asia Coprosperity Sphere" (p. 21) and the "Southeast Asia Sphere" (p. 189). The author might have focused on Southeast Asia so he has rephrased it. In fact, the concept was entitled "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater...). In the early 1950's, I first came across this concept in some Thai tabloids translated into Thai as "วงไพบูลย์ร่วมแห่งมหาเอเชียบูรพา" and wondered what it meant.

To continue . . .
Profile Image for Bill.
1,658 reviews80 followers
December 9, 2020
Enjoyed this very much. A short story, but such an interesting theme. Two ongoing stories, one to build a bridge by British POW's and the struggle by their Colonel to retain some control over his people from the Japanese soldiers and the second story, a mission to destroy the bridge by British soldiers as part of the war effort. Very interesting.
Profile Image for Sarah Scougall.
114 reviews
March 23, 2023
To say this is a book about trying to build and destroy a bridge doesn’t make it sound very interesting. Yet somehow I was fully invested in the building while also waiting with bated breath for the destruction at the end. Better than I expected.
Profile Image for Steve R.
1,055 reviews40 followers
October 24, 2022
This 1952 novel has one exceptionally strong feature and one quite irritating drawback. Written by a novelist who actually experienced the rigours of being a prisoner of the Japanese in Southeast Asia, the novel’s attention to detail is compelling. While one of the saboteurs lies in the jungle at night during a reconnaissance mission, he is attacked by mosquitoes, leeches, and then ants. The ants are both of the red and black varieties, which makes a difference as to how they bite, how painful they are and how easy it is to get rid of them. When setting the explosives under the bridge, the men spend several hours immersed in the cold waters so that their hands become masses of torn flesh and they are forced to fasten the knots holding the bombs to the piers with their teeth. As one final example, the imaginative fancies Joyce subjects himself to when it becomes apparent that he may have to kill a Japanese sentry with his knife are as explicit as they are nerve-wracking for him. Many other examples of this highly honed attention to detail could be given. They make the novel quite a riveting, engaging read.

The drawback is the exceptional degree of Eurocentric, almost racist, attitude adopted by the lead characters in the story. While probably quite indicative of prevailing outlooks of the time, it is quite disconcerting to read Nicholson describe the Japanese as being ‘what I’ve always said they were, primitive people as undeveloped as children, who’ve acquired a veneer of civilization too soon. They can’t do anything by themselves. Without us, they’d be living in the age of sailing ships and wouldn’t have a single airplane. Just children.’ The Siamese insurgents who assist the attack force marvel at the completed bridge since ‘primitive people have a distinctive appreciation of art and design’ and since the bridge shows ‘the European and Anglo-Saxon sense of perfection.’ It was these ‘primitive children’ after all, who had captured the British while taking over an entire sphere of eastern Asia and one wonders how much Bouelle let his Kipling-like assumption of the ‘white man’s burden’ with respect to the ‘inferior’ races get the better of him.

Still, a highly engaging read which, unfortunately, was too much influenced by my memories of the truly exemplary film which was developed on its basis. In a crass example of political prejudice, Bouelle actually won the Oscar for best screenplay for this film since the actual writers of the script had been blacklisted.

Profile Image for Christopher Saunders.
931 reviews862 followers
April 25, 2021
Pierre Boulle's The Bridge Over the River Kwai is a short parable about the ironies of war. British Colonel Nicholson, taken prisoner by the Japanese, is assigned to construct a railway bridge; after winning a battle of wills with the brutal camp commandant, Colonel Saito, Nicholson begins constructing a bridge better and more efficiently than the Japanese could have done on their own. Meanwhile, a British commando team seeks to destroy it. This simple story is laced with acerbic humor about an officer so dedicated to his ideas of duty that he betrays his own country; the valuing of the mission, a "job well done" over human lives or even tactical success leads the commandos to spin failure into "the only thing to do." Boulle's book is effective enough in the broad strokes but often feels crude; the characters never feel human, least of all Saito and the Japanese, who are caricatured as primitive monsters in true Yellow Peril fashion. David Lean's film adaptation is a marked improvement: its characters feel multidimensional, the commando plot (with the addition of William Holden, the POW-turned-reluctant secret agent, adding an additional layer of irony and a sympathetic character to root for) more compelling, the ending richer and more exciting. The book is a breezy but unremarkable read that's less than the sum of its parts.
Profile Image for rodrigo valério.
5 reviews16 followers
July 19, 2022
Em duas saídas há uma quinzena comprei um total de 4 livros que, para além de todos se apresentarem danificados dalguma forma, nunca lerei na minha vida. Mas hey, eram baratos, e é disso que vive a minha vontade de adquirir mais e mais, esse desejo enraizado pelo capitalismo do qual sou vítima: um preço acessível e uma capa bonita - capa acessória se o título for intrigante. Assim, quando me vi sozinho no terminal de autocarros de Sete Rios com meia dúzia de volumes já na mochila e um alfarrabista naquele calor ardente, não me contive e gastei 8 paus em dois livros.

Por três euros selecionei um livro fininho daquelas edições velhas da Europa - América cujo nome eu só conseguia posicionar como uma referência ao Billy Joel e a uma cultura cinematográfica muito longe do meu tempo. A Ponte do Rio Kwai, esse épico que só pelo título inspira tanto de um misterioso orientalismo como duma superação do impossível. E em larga parte essa primeira impressão é a que se apresenta no texto, com uns caveats.

Segunda Guerra Mundial na Tailândia, um regimento britânico, capturado pelo crescente Império Japonês, é transferido para um campo de prisioneiros perto das margens do rio Kwai. A sua missão? Erigir sobre as altas margens do rio uma ponte a ser atravessada pelos comboios nipónicos. O Coronel Nicholson, um homem que de tão reto se torna audaz, lidera as fileiras inglesas encarregadas do serviço mas contesta as exigências das altas patentes do sol nascente, arguindo - seguindo sempre o código da guerra - que os seus oficiais não devem trabalhar no duro com os soldados rasos. É este o primeiro indício de que estamos perante uma grande personagem, alguém que irá até ao fim do mundo pelos seus ideais cavalheirescos e de honra.

Honra? Que honra têm os ingleses que se renderam? O Coronel Saito, mandachuva do campo, razoável quando sóbrio mas não tanto quando o uísque lhe sobe à cabeça, não tolera tal despautério (palavra da Laura, não minha), os oficiais ingleses farão como os seus camaradas e trabalharão na ponte e ponto final. Nicholson finca a sua posição e é punido, juntamente com os seus oficiais enquanto a construção da ponte começa, embora, sem os seus superiores e só com a vigilância dos japoneses que nenhum respeito impõem, os soldados aproveitam para sabotar os trabalhos, usando a pior madeira para as vigas, desalinhando a via de forma a terem de recomeçar tudo de novo...

Frustrado Saito faz uma série de concessões para tentar aumentar a moral, sabe o que acontecerá se a ponte não estiver construída a tempo, mas nada consegues fazer para apaziguar as hostes. Desesperado liberta o Coronel Nicholson da sua prisão pútrida e dá-lhe a ele e aos seus oficias competentes o encargo de construir a ponte com supervisão mínima.

Simultaneamente um grupo afeto a uma organização dos serviços secretos ingleses congrega-se em Bombaim e em breve ruma às florestas siamesas onde procura um alvo para a sabotagem dos esforços de guerra nipónicos, alvo este que encontrará na ponte.

O resumo que fiz foi maior que o habitual mesmo que só em traços gerais, mas julgo serem estes factos necessários para se compreender alguns dos temas pretendidos. E o maior, e sem dúvida o que torna esta leitura um pedaço do seu tempo, é o racismo. De forma constante os japoneses são ridicularizados pela sua barbaridade, a forma como não se apercebem de coisas simples, a incompetência que apresentam quando tentam empreender uma grande obra, a raiva a que cedem quando a frustração ultrapassa o seu conhecimento vocabular. E é aí que os europeus são superiores - defende o livro - na sua atenção, no seu método, na sua contenção. Saito é um gorila bêbado, com engenheiros incompetentes e capangas rufiões, mas Nicholson e o seu grupo, assim como a equipa de destruição que entra mais tarde no livro, são refinados, não se deixam abater pela adversidade e dão a outra face. Não fosse o autor francês dir-se-ia que era o mais sofisticado livro de propaganda imperialista britânica, assim é o só europeu no seu pior.

E o pior é que é explícito, como se o leitor fosse demasiado burro para perceber a parábola do povo atrasado (ou que se civilizou muito rápido sem compreender o porquê de certas coisas, como é dito dos japoneses) e do redentor na missão civilizacional, o autor sente a necessidade de reforçar a ideia vezes e vezes.

NO ENTANTO, e daí vêm as quatro estrelas, não é isto suficiente para me retirar do livro. Ser-se crítico dos aspetos mais que problemáticos de uma obra e ainda assim ser-se fã desse mesmo trabalho é possível, e genuinamente acho que afastando as conotações raciais, a história de superação é cativante. Torce-se pela vitória dos personagens, pela construção daquela ponte que, certo, servirá o inimigo mas que representa o esforço, suor e quilos perdidos num empreendimento digno de uma cidade ou metrópole, mas que apodrecerá ali no meio da selva siamesa. Apodrecerá se não...

A segunda parte da história foca-se maioritariamente na equipa de destruição: Shears, o veterano deste tipo de missões, Warden, o metódico professor e Joyce, o jovem entusiasmado e cheio de vontade. A eles, sem o conhecimento de ninguém, caberá a missão de destruir a ponte assim que terminada. Admito que não achei estas cenas tão interessantes, mas é esta equipa o catalisador para o final, e que final.

A ação é parca neste romance de guerra. Durante a esmagadora maioria, o texto prefere focar-se nas condições de vida péssimas dos soldados que leva, quase no final da construção da ponte, a mais de metade estar incapacitado no hospital. Enquanto isso acontece, a equipa de destruição prepara o golpe: o Grande Golpe, como lhe chamam, que fará desabar a ligação. É descrita a viagem perigosa que os leva ao fundo dos pilares onde atam explosivos que serão acendidos quando o primeiro comboio passar, como outras armadilhas são dispostas no tabuleiro para gerar pânico, o posicionamento dos tailandeses locais contratados para disparar e dar cobertura. A ação procede em crescendo até ao culminar do plano que é simplesmente delicioso embora extremamente curto.

Enfim, não o li para ver o filme com o Alec Guiness mas é um bom bónus. É um livro muito do seu tempo e claramente escrito por alguém que vivenciou aquelas mesmas condições. Não é nenhum Paulo e Virgínia com o seu romantismo pela paisagem tropical e exótica, é muito claro sobre a vivência extenuante do trópico. Seja como for é um clássico, mais do cinema que da ficção literária certo, mas classifica-se para a minha lista interminável de livros do século passado que eu só leio para poder dizer que sou superior. Brinco, mas só porque ainda não consigo ler livros filosóficos, quando o fizer nunca mais me calo.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Maruf Hossain.
Author 30 books213 followers
April 20, 2016
শত চেষ্টা করার পরও বিশ্বযুদ্ধের ওপর এবং সেই সময়ের প্রেক্ষাপটে লেখা বইগুলো কেন যেন আমাকে টানে না তেমন একটা। :(
ফলস্বরূপ ক্লাসিক এই বইটা মনের আশ মিশিয়ে মিটিয়ে উপভোগ করতে পারিনি। তবে ওই সময়কালীন যুদ্ধ-তৎপরতার যে জীবন্ত বর্ণনা বইটাতে পেয়েছি তা এক কথায় অসাধারণ। কওয়াই নদীর ওপর নির্মিতব্য একটা ব্রিজ ধ্বংস করার জন্য কয়েকজন সৈনিকের তৎপরতা নিয়ে বইটার কাহিনি।

লেখকের প্রাণবন্ত বর্ণনায় উপভোগ করেছি। তবে এজন্য সেবা এবং অনুবাদককে ধন্যবাদ না জানালেই নয়। খসরু চৌধুরী সুনিপুণ প্রাঞ্জলতায় সাবলীল অনুবাদ দিয়ে বইটার প্রাণ ধরে রেখেছেন।
Profile Image for Ana Japaridze.
63 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2020
მთელი წიგნი ვფიქრობდი, სამს დავუწერ-მეთქი, ასეთ ეფექტურ, დინამიურ და ემოციურ ბოლო გვერდებს არ ველოდი.
Profile Image for Zoeb.
170 reviews36 followers
July 21, 2020
Sometimes, we are the victim of our own overarching expectations. As it happened to me with this book. I remember picking it up, nearly three years ago, out of all the Vintage paperbacks with red spines lined up in the shelf (and mind you, there were so many Greene books as well - at that time, I was not into Greene at all!) and as I saw that beautifully illustrated cover, I could almost hear Malcolm Arnold's rousing score - not only the Bogey March but also those swells as those parachutes drop in the darkness in the wilds of Thailand (it was really filmed in Ceylon) - and I could see poor young Joyce, wet behind the ears as always, crouching behind the rock with his detonator, sharp-eyed Warden watching the scene impatiently from a safe spot and most of all, Colonel Nicholson, good, old, heroic, proud, stiff-upper-lipped, a little eccentric Colonel Nicholson, going berserk to stop his own men from destroying possibly the greatest thing he ever built in all his 28 years of service.

Of course, I am not talking about Boulle's novel here - I am talking about the magnificent film adaptation, directed by David Lean and featuring a terrific cast, especially Alec Guinness as Nicholson, a master actor playing a plum role of a proud, condescending, even downright unreasonable yet idealistic and perversely inspiring British colonel who agrees to his Japanese captor's demands of building a railway bridge but only to assert his superiority and establish his nation's legacy at surviving and even thriving against all odds -as David Gilmour once sung, "hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". Masterful cinema, this is, essentially a psychological battle of wits and ideologies, of obstinate pride and inexorable honour, brilliantly filmed and still compelling as it was back more than sixty years ago.

The novel...not so much. I cannot comment on Boulle's talents for storytelling but I think I can conclude that the book is a vastly more humdrum affair than the exceptional film. And while I can be held guilty of confusing a film with a book, it so happens that a novelisation of Lean's film would have made for a better read than this. Boulle's novel is far from being badly or sloppily written, but did it have to be so lacking in drama, vigour and excitement? Even if you don't know the plot of the film, you would easily guess to which direction the story is turning and you would know, even before they do, how each character would behave. That is how predictable it is.

So, we have Colonel Saito who won't bend or even compromise until he has completed the orders from his Imperial Majesty - to build a bridge by the set deadline and to get it done by his newly herded throng of weary, almost broken English prisoners. And then we have Colonel Nicholson, who won't bend as well - because he too is, at one level, bound by his loyalty to His Majesty - he cannot break the military law by escaping but he will have to stand his ground. If Boulle had been primarily concerned with these two men and their conflict of interest and similarity of ideological conundrum, this book would have been a probing, incisive examination of two impossibly stubborn monarchies pitted at war against each other. And you can sense that Boulle is trying that, except that he is quite unreasonably scathing of the Japanese policy, which is understandable but not necessary, and that the book also wants to be, at the same time, a ripping men on a mission adventure, at which it does not quite succeed.

As one of the saving graces of the book, apart from the lucid, easy-to-read prose and Nicholson's undeniable aura of delusional eccentricity making many a page compelling enough, I am heartened to discover that Joyce is not made out to be the poor, inexperienced, raw recruit that he was in the film; in the book, he is resourceful, quick, alert, intelligent and he certainly earns his moment of glory. But all the other characters? Major Warden, particularly, is made out to be as delusional a loony as Nicholson itself and that is quite a crime - they are both capable of warmth, genuine sincerity of purpose and even a sense of empathy for their men in the film.

Actually, I admit to being unfair. I am comparing the book with its film, without accepting that books and films are two different things. However, the film was and is still one of my favourites and I remember watching it first in the tender age of 6 and being so particularly obsessed with so many scenes - the verbal confrontations between Saito and Nicholson, the Bogey March whistling, the march in the sun, "He is a jolly good fellow", Shears' escape, Nicholson's pride, the men floating away in the Kwai to plug the dynamite charges and, of course, that final travesty. I can still rattle off most of the quotes verbatim. So, understandably, as I said, I was blinded by my expectations. Still, even judging the book alone, I would say that I was disappointed.
Profile Image for Klara Soti.
15 reviews13 followers
January 14, 2022
A filmet (még) nem láttam. A könyv nagy részében a történet inkább komikusnak tűnt. Az utolsó néhány fejezet volt más, izgalmasabb, fordulatosabb. Érdekes befejezés, nem pont erre számítottam.
Profile Image for Dan Corley.
90 reviews2 followers
September 25, 2016
This is old school. The hardest 150 pages I have choked on so far. One thing to remember about this story is that it is fiction and not a true story. There was much more the author could have done with the story because it is fiction, but didn't. The most interesting part was the POW British soldiers building this bridge. That kept interest for the first 100 pages, but the last 50 were horrible, all the while there are old school views of the Japanese people behaving like savages and perceived as less intelligent than the British. The ending was also a total disappointment. Pass this one up
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