The Burdens of Survival: Ooka Shohei's Writings on the Pacific War

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ISBN-13: 9780824825409
Published: February 2003

Additional Information

384 pages
  • About the Book
  • Although still virtually unknown in the West, Ôoka Shôhei (1909-1988) is one of Japan's most important and influential writers and social critics. The Burdens of Survival is both a seminal English-language study of this preeminent literary figure and one of the first scholarly works to thoroughly examine the war literature of a major Japanese veteran-author. Drawing on Robert Jay Lifton's work on traumatic experience and survivor psychology, the book tells the illuminating story of Ôoka's arduous journey that began with guilt-ridden survival as a prisoner of war in the Philippines and culminated some twenty-five years later in the fruitful completion of survivor mission.

    David C. Stahl examines Ôoka's battlefield memoirs, including the established war classic Fires on the Plain (1952), in terms of extreme experience, survivor guilt, bearing witness, and the “inability to mourn.” Writing enabled Ôoka to give cathartic expression to his haunting battlefield experience and made it possible for him to move from blame-shifting to empathy and mourning. The lengthy, exhaustively researched historical work The Battle for Leyte Island (1967-1969) faithfully details the personal and collective experience of battle, depravation, and loss, and clarifies who and what was ultimately responsible for defeat. Toward the end of this work and Return to Mindoro Island (1969), Ooka draws attention to the outstanding obligations owed by his countrymen to the war dead and suggests how they can be fulfilled by public confrontation, learning the lessons of defeat, and using them to rectify lingering social and political evils.

  • About the Author(s)
    • David C. Stahl, Author

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