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A Curious Madness: An American Combat…

A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes…

by Eric Jaffe

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This is not a review, per se. Just a not on why I DNF'd this book. I was unable to finish this book. I made it to page 114/257 but had to put the book down as DNF at this time. I'm very interested in the Asian Holocaust of WWII and the history of psychiatryal so was well looking forward to this. The chapters alternated between being about the American psychiatrist and the Japanese war criminal. I found the Psychiatrist's chapters fascinating and flew through them, however the chapter's devoted to life of the war criminal were painfully dull, full of politics and military details that I have no interest. I had to force myself to pick up the book when reading these chapters. So I ended my delemna by DNFing. Sorry not for me. ( )
  ElizaJane | Apr 16, 2014 |
Eric Jaffe's new book A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and Unsolved Mystery from World War II was a fascinating read! If you find the summary on this website intriguing, I don't think you'll be disappointed. I have two insights into why I found the book so compelling, which may further help you to calibrate your level of interest in this work:

(1) One of the primary figures in the historical episode upon which the entire work focuses is the American psychiatrist who diagnosed a Japanese war criminal as insane for purposes of trial. He was Eric Jaffe's grandfather. This drove the author's "obsessive" interest (I saw a talk by the author during which he described it thusly) in this case, and his curiosity was contagious. That is, IMHO it infused his prose with a certain level of excitement. Moreover, the intensity of the author's interest bears fruit in the form of the particular depth of the investigation that forms the basis of the text produced for the readers' passive consumption.

(2) There are no clear answers presented by Jaffe. This work stimulates the reader's interest and forces her to wrestle with the ambiguities of human psychology and based on her own reflections draw whatever conclusions she can about this historical incident. This stimulating case study does not oversimplify its subject matter, let alone the human beings involved, at all.

Please be advised I received access to an electronic copy of this book through gracious permission of the publisher on NetGalley. ( )
  kara.shamy | Feb 18, 2014 |
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"From an 'illuminating and entertaining' (The New York Times) historian comes the World War II story of two men whose remarkable lives improbably converged at the Tokyo war crimes trials of 1946. In the wake of World War II, the Allied forces charged twenty-eight Japanese men with crimes against humanity. Correspondents at the Tokyo trial thought the evidence fell most heavily on ten of the accused. In December 1948, five of these defendants were hanged while four received sentences of life in prison. The tenth was a brilliant philosopher-patriot named Okawa Shumei. His story proved strangest of all. Among all the political and military leaders on trial, Okawa was the lone civilian. In the years leading up to World War II, he had outlined a divine mission for Japan to lead Asia against the West, prophesized a great clash with the United States, planned coups d'etat with military rebels, and financed the assassination of Japan's prime minister. Beyond 'all vestiges of doubt,' concluded a classified American intelligence report, 'Okawa moved in the best circles of nationalist intrigue.' Okawa's guilt as a conspirator appeared straightforward. But on the first day of the Tokyo trial, he made headlines around the world by slapping star defendant and wartime prime minister Tojo Hideki on the head. Had Okawa lost his sanity? Or was he faking madness to avoid a grim punishment? A U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan, Major Daniel Jaffe--the author's grandfather--was assigned to determine Okawa's ability to stand trial, and thus his fate. Jaffe was no stranger to madness. He had seen it his whole life: in his mother, as a boy in Brooklyn; in soldiers, on the battlefields of Europe. Now his seasoned eye faced the ultimate test. If Jaffe deemed Okawa sane, the war crimes suspect might be hanged. But if Jaffe found Okawa insane, the philosopher patriot might escape justice for his role in promoting Japan's wartime aggression. Meticulously researched, A Curious Madness is both expansive in scope and vivid in detail. As the story pushes both Jaffe and Okawa toward their postwar confrontation, it explores such diverse topics as the roots of belligerent Japanese nationalism, the development of combat psychiatry during World War II, and the complex nature of postwar justice. Eric Jaffe is at his best in this suspenseful and engrossing historical narrative of the fateful intertwining of two men on different sides of the war and the world and the question of insanity"--… (more)

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