I’ve spent the week being an 11-year old boy wandering through Shanghai separated from my parents as the Japanese invade and World War II begins in the Pacific. I’ve seen events no child should see, but often does, and I’ve retained a skewed innocence and sense of wonder in a world closed in and bearing its teeth to survive. There’s nothing like a really good book, is there? I picked up J.G. Ballard‘s Empire of the Sun, which had been sitting around for years on a shelf, and finally opened it. And there I was, so gripped by his story (mainly his own) and his writing style that all week long I had another place to live in my mind. It wasn’t a pretty place; people on the edge of survival and dealing with inhuman behavior don’t behave in heroic ways….though, again, some do. His story was so intense that I would have to pause between chapters and take a deep breath. And, of course, I’ve been mulling it over since I finished it, the way connoisseurs breathe in fine wine or brandy, thinking about war, about savagery, about what we will do to survive, about what I might do in a world gone mad, about why we say inhuman for cruel, unimaginable behavior when the behavior seems indeed a part of being human….and then going to walk outside to see two tiny rose blossoms opening in the soft, safe world in which I really reside….
(A little audio of the book by the delicious Jeremy Irons…..)
Funny that you are saying how affected you are by this story and that you were ‘mulling’ it over afterwards. I just wrote a friend the same thing earlier today about reading “Modoc, The World’s Greatest Elephant” by Ralph Helfer (which I read about 9 years ago). Although not the same literary level of “Empire of the Sun”, the story riveted me and I never stopped thinking about it no matter what I was doing. It drove me to seek out The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
But for more recent escape, I have to say that Through A Glass Darkly did if for me. I was so absorbed in the story that I did not want to put it down yet I didn’t want it to end either. Thank goodness for the sequels and prequels! I can’t wait for the next one.
Did you read Cutting for Stone? I had similar feelings after I read it. Love, Suz