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Taken Captive by Ooka Shohei

Taken Captive

By Ooka Shohei

"I do not know whether I dozed off or passed out, but the next thing I remember is gradually becoming aware of a blunt object striking my body over and over. Just as I realized it was a boot kicking me in the side, I felt my arm being grabbed roughly, and I returned to full consciousness. "One GI had hold of my right arm, and another had his rifle pointed at me, nearly touching me. "'Don't move. We're taking you prisoner,' the one with the rifle said." On January 25, 1945, Private Ooka Shohei of the Japanese Imperial Army was captured by American forces in the Philippines. Near death from starvation and acute malaria, he was nursed back to health by his captors and shipped off to a POW camp. Taken Captive is his powerful and poignant account of life as a prisoner of war. Long regarded as a literary classic in Japan, this extraordinary memoir is appearing in English for the first time. There are no epic battles or grand scale heroics. This is an intimate, gripping, and ultimately enlightening true story of a sophisticated, middle-aged scholar thrown into a primitive struggle for survival. It is filled with moments of sublime ordinariness--prisoners passing time by playing "20 Questions"--and heartstopping encounters--a lone soldier decides whether or not to shoot an unsuspecting enemy soldier. The harsh conditions, the daily routines that occupy a prisoner's time, and above all, the psychological struggles and behavioral quirks of captives forced to live in close confinement are conveyed with devastating simplicity and candor. Throughout, the author constantly probes his own conscience, questioning motivations and decisions. What emerges is a multileveled portrait of an individual determined to retain his humanity in an uncivilized environment. In Taken Captive, Ooka Shohei provides much more than an unprecedented look at the POW experience from a Japanese point of view. His stirring account offers a penetrating exploration of Japanese society, and its values, as embodied by the microcosm of his fellow POWs. Recalling his wartime experiences, Ooka Shohei has created a brilliant work of rare honesty, insight, and emotional subtlety.

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