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helenliz

helenliz

The Railway Man

The Railway Man - Eric Lomax Talk about man's inhumanity to man. Eric Lomax was a POW of the Japanese in WW2 and worked on the infamous Burma railway. This is his memoir of his life before the army, his experience of war and the terrible treatment and torture he suffered as a POW. It also deals with the impact that had on his later life - who could survive that and not be scarred. Inevitably with any great event, it dominates the book. From the very early pages it is almost as if everything he learns or experiences is, in someway, shaping him in preparation for the defining event of his life. The main influences would be a love of railways and the steam trains that run them and a interest in machinery and of technology, such as radio specifically. He also manifests a desire for order and system and timetable - a means of knowing where he fits into the system of the structures around him, it's a means of grounding him and connecting him to the world at large.All of which conspires to have him, as an officer, engaged in concealing a radio and a map of the area, with the railway and other features marked. this small act, and the Japanese's paranoia combine to put him in quite dreadful straits. In later years he focuses his hatred onto the interpreter who was involved in the interrogation and torture he suffered. Post war, the experience now colours the entire of his life, especially in an emotional sense. But there comes a moment of truth, can you actually continue to hate a man who, half a lifetime ago, was implicit in, but didn't drive or control the torture & interrogation. Mind you, he did nothing to prevent it either. The book is dominated by his years as a POW - that takes over 1/3rd of the book and leaves a scant 74 pages for his entire life after 1945. the last section, dealing with his post war life, felt very brief. He has a wife that he says, honestly, he should never have married, and she is almost brushed under the carpet. The event leading up to his meeting with and forgiveness of his interpreter also seems a bit rushed, somehow. It is almost as if he's opened up to tell what was done to him, but is still struggling to express emotion in any meaningful way. that's not to say that it's not an incredibly powerful book, but you do seem to go from blind hate to forgiveness without the soul searching that I would expect. It's written in a style I can recognise. Both my grandfathers fought in WW2, and this sounds a lot like them and their friends. All very matter of fact and understated, until you listen to it and hear what is being said, when it very slightly blows your mind. It's all very plain language - this isn't some work of great erudition, it is simply an unbelievable tale told in such a down to earth manner that you can't help but accept every word as being true. I can't imagine how you survive an experience like that and still come out of it a human being - it's a testament Eric, and the many thousands like him, that they did.