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The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre…
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The Bridge Over the River Kwai

by Pierre Boulle

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English (10)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All (16)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I wanted to like this book. Considering its place as a classic and the source for a famous, award-winning movie, I expected it to be something …more? Instead, it was dull, too much telling, stereotypical characters that felt like wooden dolls tromping across a stage. I understand it was based on the author’s experience as a POW under the Japanese. In particular, he claimed it was a French captain’s collaboration with the Japanese that he based Colonel Nicholson on. However, history does not support this.
Perhaps the writing doesn’t translate will in to English, which is why the writing is dull and the characters trite. The story has promise, the class of honor and patriotism. But the characters never felt real enough to engage the reader, and draw them into the conflict.
So much potential, wasted due to poor writing. Read it if you want to read a classic about this time on our history, as there seems to be a lack of fiction about it, but don’t expect anything spectacular. ( )
  empress8411 | Mar 5, 2017 |
Take The Seed and the Sower (that's Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence to you visually oriented sorts), remove all the rough trade and fragile beauty and homoeroticism (which basically means removing its spine) and then go further and remove every iota of insight into the human condition or old-hand I-was-thereness or thinly finctionalized historical facts or any of the normal reasons people read books, and you've got the story at the start, of Nicholson and Saito. They build the bridge. Then realize you need to give people a reason not to throw this shit down in dismay and add a plodding, unimaginative special-forces jungle-mission story. They tear the bridge down. It's not enough. Boulle was not there--he was a rubber engineer–cum–Free French agent who spent the war cooling his heels in a Vichy prison in Vietnam, and that is a little noble but he doesn't know anything about anything and it shows. He way, way softballs the atrocities of the Burma Road, rendering it a kind of French vision of a British East India Hogan's Heroes (ever watched any French action movies? You're 1/5 of the way to how goofy and unfortunate this is). There is some minor interest in Nicholson, who approaches the world with the rationalizing racist brain of a Victorian engineer--they all do, but for whatever reason he is the one who takes the plunge and agrees to help the enemy and build the bridge harder and faster to show those Japs what real Europeans can do, for his honour, like (this is not how it happened in reality, NB, where honour took a back seat to fucking up the enemy every which way possible took a back seat to self-preservation). A book full of engineer brains is at least potentially a novelty, but then Boulle ruins it by being comically, horribly, ruminate-and-then-suddenly-froth-at-the-mouthly racist agains the Japanese: all the tropes here we've seen before in the bad old style, the bow legs buck teeth little squat stupid slovenly incompetent inscrutable cringing bullying quavering grunting man-apes, the burly brutish Korean gorilla-men, the fact is here though that Boulle really goes that extra mile--he can't get off it for a second, he really wants you to agree with him, like the sweaty guy at the pub or bus stop who won't shut up, that they're subhuman those Asians and that rational Europe (for him, basically, European civilization means bridges and scientific management, the ability to get that little bit of extra productivity out of your employees, this is aaaalmost verging on Nazi-ish stuff here, petty wonder at inhuman efficiency, funny enough). It has that interest as a very pure example of the late-modern late-colonial mentality--"without us these troglodytes couldn't even build a bridge, let's just do it for them so we can get on with spanking them and sending them back to their Emperor"--but in a more meaningful way it is, of course, filthy trash. (It's especially funny because it's the Japanese, who, um, shall we say, know a thing or two about scientific management? Who were turning out aesthetic triumphs and a whole supporting philosophy with their eyes shut while Europe was in training pants and Caesar haircuts? Oh yeah, they're the savages.) ( )
3 vote MeditationesMartini | Jun 16, 2016 |
Based on the true story of a WW2 episode in Thailand. The movie is excellent and has some great acting... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This review contains spoilers for the ending of the book and the movie

****

The Bridge Over the River Kwai is a well-known movie (except it's called The Bridge ON the River Kwai), but did you know it began as a book? This tells the story of a group of British prisoners of war in the Eastern theatre of operations, who have been conscripted to build a bridge for their Japanese captors. The senior POW, Col. Nicholson, insists on doing the job properly and building an impressive, sturdy bridge. Meanwhile, a team of demolition experts is planning to destroy the bridge.

I've seen the movie, which is why I wanted to read the book. It was about what I expected and I assume the movie was fairly true to the book, although it seemed to end differently. But maybe I'm not remembering the ending of the movie correctly. And unlike the movie, I didn't spend the whole book waiting for the important bit (the bridge blowing up). However, it is probably not mandatory to read the book, even if you haven't seen the movie. ( )
  rabbitprincess | May 10, 2014 |
Pierre Boulle wrote two novels which later became films. He writes very sparse novels, evoking rather than describing the environments of his stories, and the Bridge is a very good novel indeed. The film giving the director a lot of independence in details was also very good indeed. Read the book before watching the movie, because this is not a "novelization" of the film, and both novelist and director will get full credit for their work. the book had its French publication in 1952. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Mar 4, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pierre Boulleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Šup, JosefTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fielding, XanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Louhivuori, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
No, it was not funny; it was rather pathetic; he was so representative of all the past victims of the Great Joke. But it is by folly alone that the world moves, and so it is a respectable thing upon the whole. And besides he was what one would call a good man.

Joseph Conrad
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Part One, Chapter 1
The inumerable gap between East and West that exists in some eyes is perhaps nothing more than an optical illusion. Perhaps it is only the conventional way of expressing a popular opinion based on insufficient evidence and masquerading as a universally recognised statement of fact, for which there is no justification at all, not even the plea that it contains an element of truth. During the last war 'saving face' was perhaps as vitally important to the British as it was to the Japanese. Perhaps it dictated the behaviour of the former, without their being aware of it, as forcibly and as fatally as it did that of the latter, and no doubt that of every other race in the world.
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Book description
En bok jag köpte då jag arbetade på ett fartyg som ung vid omkring 18 års ålder. Jag köpte boken av en försäljare som besökte fartyget då det låg vid kaj i Norrland. Omslaget hade ett tryck med en ep-skiva där filmmusiken till bokens handling fanns.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0891419136, Paperback)

1942: Boldly advancing through Asia, the Japanese need a train route from Burma going north. In a prison camp, British POWs are forced into labor. The bridge they build will become a symbol of service and survival to one prisoner, Colonel Nicholson, a proud perfectionist. Pitted against the warden, Colonel Saito, Nicholson will nevertheless, out of a distorted sense of duty, aid his enemy. While on the outside, as the Allies race to destroy the bridge, Nicholson must decide which will be the first casualty: his patriotism or his pride.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:13 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

1942: Boldly advancing through Asia, the Japanese need a train route from Burma going north. In a prison camp, British POWs are forced into labor. The bridge they build will become a symbol of service and survival to one prisoner, Colonel Nicholson, a proud perfectionist. Pitted against the warden, Colonel Saito, Nicholson will nevertheless, out of a distorted sense of duty, aid his enemy. While on the outside, as the Allies race to destroy the bridge, Nicholson must decide which will be the first casualty: his patriotism or his pride. -- Publisher description.… (more)

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