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A narrative of brief compass yet immense force, Yoshida Mitsuru's work makes a singular contribution to the literature of the Pacific War. Long a favorite in Japan, it was not fully translated into English until 1985 when the hardcover edition was first published in the United States to rave reviews. In April 1945 the fabled battleship Yamato was the centerpiece of a last desperate sortie by the Japanese Navy. A young ensign on the bridge during the climactic battle against American airplanes, Yoshida writes in prose that is at once terse and evocative, spare and eloquent, raising his experience on the doomed ship to the level of existential tragedy.
Translator Richard Minear gives us a Requiem faithful to the original, its language vigorous and idiomatic. His informative introduction describes the work's historic and political context and Yoshida's difficulties with occupation censors. Minear comments on matters of form and style and quotes extensively from Yoshida's postwar essays, which trace the author's avid and continual search for the meaning of peace beyond "the crucible of nothingness we call battle."
Like other great war stories, the book transcends the particulars of disaster and the divisiveness of war. In the words of the translator, Yoshida's "ultimate concern is less bombs and bullets than human nature, less death than life." His remarkable insights will stir the memories of others who served and help those who did not reach a new level of understanding.
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