The Bridge on the River Kwai tells the story of three POWs who endure the hell of the Japanese camps on the Burma-Siam railway - Colonel Nicholson, a man prepared to sacrifice his life but not his dignity; Major Warden, a modest hero, saboteur and deadly killer; Commander Shears, who escaped from hell but was sent back. Ordered by the Japanese to build a bridge, the Colonel refuses, as it is against regulations for officers to work with other ranks. The Japanese give way but, to prove a point of British superiority, construction of the bridge goes ahead - at great cost to the men under Nicholson's command.
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(198mm x 129mm x 14mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
This book was first published in 1952, and in this translation in 1954. It is a war novel, but without the heroism and jingoism which you might expect from a war novel written 50 years ago. Following the surrender of Burma and Malaya to the Japanese in 1942, many Allied divisions were taken prisoner and put to work under brutal conditions to build the infamous Burma-Siam railway which was intended to transport the Japanese army across Asia from the Bay of Bengal. This book is the story of a Colonel Nicholson and the battalion of men he commanded, who were ordered to build one of the bridges for the railway. At the centre of the novel is Nicholson's determination to retain the order and bearing expected of a British officer. His official surrender does not go with the dignity he planned, and he insists on following the procedures of the Hague Convention. His resistance in the face of the Japanese officers and his survival through the punishments he received is courageous, but the reasons for that resistance seem out of proportion, especially reading the book today. Nicholson's motivation seems to be to preserve British order and pride rather than to safeguard the men under his command; he refuses to let his officers 'navvy' alongside the men and corrects the Japanese engineer's mistakes to make sure that the bridge is strong enough, to make it 'a triumph of Western civilization'. His bravery seems more to stem from a shortsightedness, an inability to see the larger picture, so that he does not see that the bridge, his great achievement, is helping the enemy and against the Allied cause. This is a fascinating exploration of the value of principles, and a remarkable testimony to attitudes of the time. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Pierre Boulle
Pierre Boulle was born in 1912 at Avignon. Boulle studied as an engineer but ended up moving to Malaysia where he worked as both a soldier and a planter. Boulle fought in Yunnan, Calcutta and Indo-Chine during the Second World War until he was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in a POW camp. It was this experience that would later form the basis of his infamous novel, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Upon his departure from Asia, Boulle's literature made a turn towards the fantastic and science fiction while contemplating the political and cultural upheaval experienced by the modern man. His most famous science fiction novel, Monkey Planet (its film adaptation was renamed The Planet of the Apes) has been adapted eight different times for either television or film. Boulle died in 1994.