Saturday, June 18, 2016

Real Hunger

13 Ramadhan 1437


I've just been reading Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I made a false start on it soon after receiving it as a birthday present in April, not really getting into the somewhat fractured narrative concerning the central character Dorrigo Evans, a survivor of one of the camps on the Burma Death Railway. Even having read a good two-thirds of the novel I'm not entirely sure what to make of him as the protagonist, especially when it turns out that the narrative is focalised through quite a number of other characters in addition to Dorrigo, including some of those in charge in the POW camp. What I am sure of, however, is that the central segment of the novel dealing head-on with the sufferings of the prisoners makes for gripping, disturbing reading.

To mention just one aspect of their ordeal: the evocation of the incessant ravenous hunger the prisoners endured as a result of being appallingly over-worked on the most meagre rations possible puts into major perspective the very slight discomfort one might experience during fasting month. It's difficult to imagine how any of the men survived - and I'm moving into the part of the novel that deals with what did survive of them (at least, I think that's what's coming) with deep fascination - and gratitude for never having to have experienced anything remotely similar.

No comments: