[Book Review] Burial in the Clouds by Hiroyuki Agawa

Title: Burial in the Clouds
Author: Hiroyuki Agawa
Translator: Teruyo Shimizu
Published: January 1st 2006 (first published January 1st 1955)
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
English Edition, Paperback, 224 pages

"I guess I'm lucky to have survived this long, but the thought of it gives me a pang ... We are the most senior aircrews under the commander now, with the exception of a few recon men from the 13th Class. More than two-thirds of the former 13th Class students have been killed at the front. Now, the fate of the nation entirely depends on how we die ..." -p.208-

I can't believe I actually burst into tears at some parts … T.T

[This is special reading on the occasion of November 10th "Indonesian Heroes Commemoration Day / Hari Pahlawan" in Indonesia]

This is a sweet, heart-warming, yet heart-breaking story about Navy pilot of Japan in WW II.

Four college students in literature became soldiers in order to serve their nation. They all in navy, but three of them end up in the same place and becoming pilots.

"You guys come in from the air, I will come in on the water, and A. will creep in over the earth. Let's keep up the work." – Kashima’s letter to Yoshino

The writing mainly in the form of journal or diary writing of Yoshino, but it also contains correspondence letters of those four. Because they are students of literature department, it also contains beautiful poems in some parts.

Some people may think that war will only bring misfortune, pain, and sadness. But in this story, I can also see war as their way to serve their country and nation even though their country only asks them to die. Even though some of them despise the war and the thought to just die at the front line, they can’t do anything much because they are just ordinary people who can only follow orders. They can only think and do to die honorably. But still, I despise any form of war in this world :(

I learn technical things about war, like pilots aren’t all from air force army. There are also pilots in navy. That may just trivial things, but it was new thing for me. I also learn things about World War II, especially about the “special attack” mentioned here, the “kamikaze”.

Their friendship, their thoughts, their fought, their sacrifice, their love to parents, family, friends, and their loved ones, are just … sweet …

“I’m certain that he reposes in peace at the horizon, where ocean and sky meet, with the sea for his grave, and his epitaph written in the cloud.” – Kashima letter

Food for thought:

“You are free to keep a diary. But its contents may be private, and since navy fliers must rely on others to see to their personal effects if they are killed, it is best, so far as you can manage it, never to write anything that might tarnish your name after death.” –p.89

“Don’t let one or two deaths dismay you. We’ll put you through the wringer twice as hard, starting tomorrow.” –p.113

“I just think we must set about preparing for our journey to the other world. That’s the fate we shoulder.” –p.118

“I’ve already wrecked six airplanes. Any man who’s scared to bang up a plane or crack a fart is good for nothing. Don’t let it get to you.” –p.159

“You must live. Don’t think about the others. It’s all right. You deserve to survive.” –p.170


Kamikaze and World War II

Taken from: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/kamikazes_and_world_war_two.htm

Kamikazes and the creed that went with the kamikazes in World War Two is usually associated with those Japanese pilots who flew into American warships in an effort to sink them.

About the Author:

Hiroyuki Agawa, author of The Reluctant Admiral, the bestselling biography of Admiral Yamamoto, was born in Hiroshima. On graduating from Tokyo University in 1942, he was trained in the Naval Air Corps in Taiwan and worked in communications and intelligence in China. One of the most celebrated Japanese authors of his generation, Agawa was awarded the Noma Bungei Prize in 1994 and the Order of Culture (Bunka Kansho) in 1999.

Translator Teruyo Shimizu holds degrees from Kanazawa University in Japan and Western Michigan University in the United States. Her translations include Shusaku Endo’s Song of Sadness and Nozumu Hayashi’s England is Delicious.