One of the finest war novels ever written, 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 ordered 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.
About the Author
Pierre Boulle was born in 1912 at Avignon. Boulle spent the Second World War fighting in Yunnan, Calcutta and Indo-Chine, where he was captured by the Japanese. After the war he lived in Malaya, the Cameroons and finally, Paris, where he settled untill his death in 1994.
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)
Number Of Pages: 208
Published: 3rd February 2003
Publisher: Random House
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.1 x 1.4
Weight (kg): 0.16