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The Seed and the Sower

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  341 ratings  ·  37 reviews
This is war as experienced in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Java in 1942, but, above all, war as experienced in the souls of men. What follows is the story of two British officers whose spirits the Japanese try to break. Yet out of all the violence and misery strange bonds of love and friendship are forged between the prisoners - and their gaolers. It is a battle of s ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published 1973 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1963)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  341 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Mark Lawrence
This is just my lame way of getting a Merry Christmas from Mr (Dr even!) Lawrence into your feed!

Have a good one, everybody!

(I saw the film when it came out. It's good.)
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I became aware of this book, unsurprisingly, through the adapted movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence directed by Nagisa Oshima. I enjoyed the movie tremendously and was curious about the source material that made the movie.

The book is elegantly written and incredibly moving. It digs deep into the minds of its characters and presents them as they evolve. The writing is intimate and profound not only for how it reveals the genuine nature of the characters, but also in a way that is closely tied to
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great writing, the boys in Africa part was exceptional. Which is funny because it was the worst bit of the movie. Tom Conti wasn't really Mr Lawrence, but I can see why they went for David Bowie as Jacques Celliers.

"when the ground under the feet of Hara's war lords was cracking and reverberating from the shock of the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and when the legendary twilight of the submerged racial soul of Japan must have been dark and sagging under the weight of the wings of dragons
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A birthday present from my wonderful son. I love this copy with the silhouette of the fence and the watch tower. Thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it- such a lot I'd forgotten in the thirty years since I last read it! My wonderful son also bought me the DVD (with David Bowie as Jaques Celliers).
Franklin P
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Ok, so I loved the film based on this book, and having now read the book its safe to say the film edited brilliantly the book.
Its a good book, but meandering all over the place. Celliers segment in South Africa was far too long winded in particular the strange God story. The final book was totally aside from the rest of the story.

So in essence the Merry Christmas bit was brilliant and I really enjoyed Hara/Lawrence. The Yanoi vs Celliers section was as moving as I remember the film being.

I cant
Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Susan by: The Wonderlings
Shelves: fiction
In these three interconnected stories, two old friends meet for Christmas 5 years after the end of World War II and talk over wartime experiences including their time in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Conflicts between Eastern and Western culture and mores are shown in an intuitive, almost spiritual Jungian perspective with respect for both, despite descriptions of brutal actions which would seem to foreclose understanding. Read for online book group.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
"‘I guess Yonoi and I were birds of a feather caught in the same trap of our bright plumage. He too was a fugitive from his own, inner law— just as I was.’ He forced a laugh. ‘Talk about loyalty to the old school tie. It’s not a patch on the loyalty of the old Borstal knot.'"

Nowhere near as good as the movie. The movie intertwines the different stories so much better than the book-- everything feels more connected by the simple change of having it all occur in the same prison camp. In the book,
Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best book I've read in a long time. Van Der Post has something really important to tell us in these three beautifully written novellas. The stories are recalled by two men who had been through the war and prison camp together when they meet again at Christmas time. The episodes are set in a Japanese prison camp, in battle fields, and torture chambers--all places you would least likely expect to find love, compassion and brotherhood. I highly recommend this book. It's out of pr ...more
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is great, I loved the flowery and lengthy descriptions and most of the book was very captivating although the last section of the book (i e the last story) really fell flat for me and felt incredibly dated. The religious overtones became a bit annoying at times, also it isn't so much a novel than it is a collection of three distinct stories with some interlinking characters and themes. It was interesting to see how the filmakers of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence managed to tie and cleverly me ...more
Jason Prodoehl
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
There are times in this book you will wonder what kind of strange tangent the story is taking. It's worth it. This author is so incredible in his descriptions, and he finds a way to describe complex emotions. It also makes me see beyond the moment and the action, to what is happening to the heart. Do note this book describes events during WW II. Even though the Japanese were the "enemy" of the Allied forces, I was surprised and pleased that the author describes those fighting against as human be ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Had I not learnt lately that death is not something that happens at the end of our life? It is imprisonment in one moment of time, confinement in one sharp uncompromising deed or aspect or ourselves. Death is exclusion from renewal of our present-day selves.

I guess the British, as well as the Japanese, having lived on their islands for such a long time, have developed a peculiar mentality codified by the rules of honour and ideals that might seem difficult to grasp.

However, this book is a magni
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i feel like i am too young to fully appreciate this. also, i feel like i would've enjoyed this a whole lot more if i actually had a physical book instead of the ebook. still, the story of major celliers' was beautiful (altho i got really bored during his memoir bit), as was the last chapter about the sword and the doll. "without the sword the doll would have no life; without the doll the sword would have lost its meaning" is definitely my favorite quote from the book. i'd never reread this book ...more
Tim Kimball
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
WORSE than the movie (merry christmas mr lawrence), pretentious, silted.

i am glad i wasn't locked up with van der post (or this book) from 1942 until 1945.

no wonder van der post was mentor to the horrible prince charles.

don't bother.

lots of excellent, reflective memoirs from fepows.

this is NOT one of them.
Katherine Hebert
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Elegant, philosophical, character-driven, truly horrific (and historic) plot involving the Japanese invasion of South Pacific islands and their POW camps.
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Poignant, moving and beautifully written.
Lucinda Elliot
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the most part this is brilliantly written, the strong spiritual message all important but never overstated.

The themes are complex, but at base describe the net of forces which oblige whole peoples, let alone inidividuals, to act in accordance with urges that seem stronger than themselves. Thus, in 'The Bar of Shadow' the Japanese officer practically in charge of the starved prisoners, Hara, is acting monstrously according to any humane standards, but by his own, he is beating them out of the
Patrick McCoy
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I recently re-watched Nagisa Oshima's masterful Merry Christmas Mr.Lawrence and realized through the Criterion extras that the film is based on the writings of South African author Laurens van der Post. Post is a fascinating character who had worked in Japan as a journalist and had some Japanese language knowledge so that when he was captured he could communicate with his captors better than most. He went onto become a celebrated traveler and writer. This explains why Oshima choose a story writt ...more
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 12, 2016 added it
the writing is silted and flowery but its to be expected by the stature of the person writing it and the era it was written in. not nearly as gorey as the people on the dvd extras lead me to believe. (its the book Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is based on) but then everyone's idea of gore is different.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I only recently got a copy of this book from the library's archives. This is one of the most
Beautiful and moving books I've read. I just wish I could own a copy of's a shame this book is out of print! :(
Pauline Lindeque
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! Van der Post describes the world around him with such beauty. I read some passages twice to make sure that I did not miss it. You have to be attentive when reading but well worth the effort.
George K. Ilsley
Took me ages to get through this. Parts are brilliant, parts are mushy and incomprehensible. A section when he talks about male/females relations felt really dated. All in all, these are linked stories, not a novel.
This book brings back good memories. I should really return it to its owner.
Jun 16, 2010 added it
wrong timing for me and this book
will try again at a later stage
Erik Graff
Apr 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Laurens van der Post fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
I picked this up to read after reading Lauren van der Post's Jung and the Story of Our Time book. The movie based on it made more of an impression on me than this did.
Michael Page
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
A book I first read as a teenager and have read every decade since- still an excellent exploration of why men fight and how people can reach across even the greatest divides.
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Saw the movie, interestingly enough in South Africa, and read the book much later. Both are very good and well worth the read and the watch.
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
A WWII story. A Japanese prison camp story. But mostly a story of brothers. There are lines in this book that have stayed with me for decades. Lovely writing.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Reminds me of 'Heart of Darkness'. I'd love to see some feminist/post-colonial/queer readings of this text.
Diana Sharkey
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poignant, powerful.

Story telling at its finest. If you enjoyed the movie Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, you will love this book which inspired it.
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Sir Laurens Jan van der Post (aka Laurens van der Post) was a 20th century Afrikaner author of many books, farmer, war hero, political adviser to British heads of government, close friend of Prince Charles, godfather of Prince William, educator, journalist, humanitarian, philosopher, explorer, and conservationist.

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