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3 Works 109 Members 3 Reviews

About the Author

Raghu Karnad is an award-winning journalist who lives in Bangalore and New Delhi, India. His writing has appeared in Granta, the international New York Times, the Financial Times, the Caravan, and n+1.

Works by Raghu Karnad

Everybody’s Friend (2013) 6 copies, 1 review
Farthest Field (2016) 2 copies


Common Knowledge




In the early 1940's, when the British were building the Indian Army into a modern force capable of repelling Japanese invaders, the first thing they had to do was separate the Indians from themselves: separate caste from caste, Sikh from Hindu, Hindu from Moslem, Moslem from Parsi Zoroastrian. They separated them by battalion, by company, by squad. They separated them because not only would these groups not fight together, they barely tolerated each other. Once separated, the groups then had to be brought back together to fight a common enemy, the Japanese. All while this was happening, India was awakening to throw off the other common enemy: the British themselves.

Many, many Indians fought and died fighting the Japanese. Many fought and died fighting the British -- as Japanese allies! And after the war, many continued fighting and dying working with both the Japanese and the British to subdue (I almost want to use the American term "pacify") local populations in Indonesia and elsewhere.

One of the great accomplishments of Raghu Karmad's book "Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War" is how calmly he keeps judgement at bay while the describing the horrors his characters experience in the jungles of Burma. With the perspective of time we can all too easily conclude that Indians who fought on either side of the war were pawns to imperial interests and we can pity them for it.

But one thing we should not do -- and I think this is Karnad's great message -- is forget them, no matter how we judge them. Their wartime service had an important role to play in the coming independence of India and its aftermath.

I have not read such a moving experience of war since I left Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy. I can almost hear the buzzing of metal flying through the air. I feel the dread the Indian soldiers experienced, and the Indian sappers, must have felt when they knew that the dreaded Japanese, the Japanese soldiers they had been taught were consummate warriors, inhuman butchers, pitiless, and consumed with hatred, that these same Japanese were just beyond the ridge and coming for them now.

Between the rains, the dirt, the cry of the sick and dying, the sleeplessness, the pain, the diarrhea, the thirst, the terror, the loneliness, the heat, and the utter hopelessness, the soldier had a gun to his face and a gun to his back. No matter what he felt about the British Empire.
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MylesKesten | 1 other review | Jan 23, 2024 |
When most people think of the Second World War, the images that come to mind are those of airplanes dueling in the skies over Britain and Germany, soldiers fighting in the snow of Russia or the deserts of North Africa, or landing craft splashing ashore on the beaches of Normandy or the Pacific islands. Each of these images captures a portion of the war, but none by themselves can convey the totality of the conflict that was waged in many different regions, some often overshadowed by the fighting elsewhere.

Then there are other images, those of the men and women who served in the war. It was those images which are the genesis of Raghu Karnad's book. From the starting point of the small photographs of them his family kept on display in their house he reconstructs the lives and wartime careers of three men he never knew: his grandfather Kodandera "Ganny" Ganapathy and his grand-uncles Bobby Mugaseth and Manek Dadabhoy. Each of them volunteered to serve in the Second World War; none of them survived it. Using family records and the histories of the conflict, he describes their lives and their wartime experiences, highlighting some of those often overshadowed aspects of the war. For his grandfather, his war consisted of service as a doctor in a hospital on the Northwest Frontier, where he died not in combat but from bronchitis. By contrast his uncles had more direct experiences of war, serving in combat against the Japanese in Burma and northeastern India. Their experiences may have been heroic, but their fates no less tragic for Karnad's family.

Reading Karnad's book brought to mind for me another account of war, Vera Brittain's [book:Testament of Youth|374388]. While her book was a personal account of her experiences of the First World War, it too was structured around the stories of three men close to her who died over the course of it. Such a focus makes the retelling of the war come alive, as does Karnad's almost novelistic style. So vividly does he reconstruct scenes that they almost seem more like fiction than fact, yet it is probably more accurate to claim that Karnad employed all of his skills as a journalist to take the accounts in the letters and memoirs and bring them to life. The result is a work that underscores the dual tragedy of the deaths of three dynamic young men whose promise was cut short and their sacrifice in the service an empire about to be ended by the efforts of their countrymen, and it is no small measure of Karnad's achievement that he restores to them the nobility of their choice.
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MacDad | 1 other review | Mar 27, 2020 |
More of a journey than a story, this is a slice of forgotten history, both national and personal. The writing style is nice, but it felt a little aimless at times.
AngelaJMaher | Jun 17, 2018 |



½ 3.6

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