Monday, November 4, 2013

Book: "Visas for 6000 lives" 「六千人の命のビザ」

It's been a while since I posted. I've spent most of that time writing my PhD thesis, and preparing its defence. In my spare time, I've done a fair amount of reading, my main challenge being "Visas for 6000 lives" (六千人の命のビザ).

Initially, I was quite keen (having been somewhat thrown by what I considered the difficult language in Natsume Souseki's "Bocchan") to read "Visas for 6000 lives" in English; however, I had read on the net that the translation isn't terribly good, and so I decided to get a Japanese copy and read that instead.

As it happens, I'm quite pleased I got the Japanese copy: for the most part the Japanese is not too hard going, and it was interesting enough to keep me going to the end (The most difficult part being a small telegram from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which I had to resort to getting a Japanese friend to read through for me, but besides this, the language was very accessible).

My main interest in the book is the act of humanity performed by Chiune Sugihara through which thousands of Jews were saved during the Second World War; however, the book somehow manages to condense this chapter of Sugihara's life into the first chapter (of seven). Despite this, I feel the scene was set sufficiently well, and there are a wealth of experiences and excitement through the following chapters.

As someone who knows very little of what civilian life was like in Europe during the Second World War, the book was a fascinating, sometimes heart-wrenching, glimpse of that era; albeit from the perspective of the exceptionally well-to-do.

I'd recommend the book to anyone who, like me, has little knowledge of life in Europe during that time, or is interested in finding out more about Chiune Sugihara.

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