What I’ve Been Reading

Two books I’ve read recently had quite an impact on me, and so I am sharing them with you.

The Remains of War, Surviving the Other Concentration Camps of World War II
by Pauline Kok-Schurgers
Self-published (iUniverse)

I forget where I read about this book. Someone, somewhere had read it and another iUniverse book and remarked that The Remains of War was well worth reading. The comments were intriguing enough that I bought it and read it. It’s one of the most affecting books I’ve read in a while, and more about that later. I’m sorry indeed that the publisher is iUniverse. It means the author has not made the money she could have or deserves. That said, I’m glad the book is out there to be read.

The story is about a young Dutch girl who, with her family, was interned in a series of Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia. It’s as harrowing and heartbreaking as you’d expect. The family survives, by the way which is what got me through the book, though the power of the words and language would probably have kept me reading. Kok-Schurgers was nine when she and her family were interned and twelve by the time they were liberated. The men, her father included, were sent to a different camp, so she was with her mother, two sisters and a brother.

It’s a powerful story, powerfully told.

At first, the language was just ever so slightly loose, but by the second chapter, Ms. Kok-Schurgers’s story utterly drew me in. Everything was immediate and visceral. It’s not told from a distance, instead we get an astonishing, living, breathing girl on these pages who is both aware of her flaws and learning who she is. The quote below is something said to her by an adult in the camp about a young boy also interned.

“He liked the shadows, which gave him comfort and shelter, because light asked from him more than he was willing to give.”

Voices like that should not be forgotten. I’m glad I read this book. Other reviewers are right. This is an important text.

Kok-Schurgers has a blog here and an uninformative website here. Amazon link (Kindle Version). This is worth the price.

From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme
Maja Kominko, Editor

Open Book Publishers

This work is from the British Library and describes several preservation programs dedicated to, as the title says, endangered archives. The forward is oh so slightly boring until it begins a discussion of the ways in which Western cultures have removed knowledge from indigenous populations, denied them access to their own heritage, and removed the artifacts from the very surroundings and people who gave the information meaning. The descriptions of the collections described in this volume are fascinating. This is wonderful, amazing material. Mind-blown. Myths exploded. Read it. Amazon Link

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