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Sauron thrived when things grew dark, too

Hillenbrand's second book, seven years in the making, is "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" and likely to be as big a hit as "Seabiscuit." The theme is identical -- the triumph of an indomitable underdog in the face of titanic obstacles -- but this time the protagonist is human: Louis Zamperini, an Olympian in his own right (he ran in the 1936 games in Berlin), war hero, POW camp survivor and inspirational speaker.

[. . .]

Those hopes were, of course, pulverized by the outbreak of war, and Zamperini became a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, stationed in Hawaii. The book's exciting descriptions of foot races give way to even more exciting accounts of bombing raids and airborne battles.

[. . .]

Zamperini and Phillips' luck ran out when, while on a rescue operation, their plane conked out and crashed at sea. Only the two of them and a third serviceman survived, floating on rafts through shark-infested waters for 47 days, a record. They survived on snared sea birds and collected rain, and after a Japanese fighter plane peppered their raft with bullets, they had to simultaneously bail, fight off sharks and patch the holes until it was restored to a fragile seaworthiness. Miraculously, they finally floated toward land -- only to be captured by the Japanese.

And so "Unbroken" segues once again, from man-against-the-elements survival yarn to an even darker tale of human cruelty and defiance.

[. . .]

When the war ended, Zamperini returned home in triumph, only to have the terror and impotent rage he felt in the camps come back to him every night in his dreams. The greatest generation (and you can only regard this moniker as thoroughly earned after reading "Unbroken") suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, too, and Zamperini's desperate efforts to overcome this final and perhaps most challenging trial serve as a pointed reminder of the difficulties so many of the current generation's vets are facing right now. (Laura Miller, “‘Unbroken,’ ‘Seabiscuit’ author’s latest triumph,” Salon, 14 Nov. 2010)


I'm quite sure that every nation that went to war has examples of such men. They were all -- Americans, Germans, Brits, Italians, Egyptians, Russians, Japanese -- I suppose, members of the greatest generation. But one has to wonder who it was who brought about this ready heroism-enabling, life-destroying war about in the first place? Sure, they fought off some sharks, but for collectively seeing the necessity of wasting away millions of lives, maybe an asterisk beside their extraordinary tales of heroic perseverance?

Remember Goldhagen ("Hitler’s willing executioners") -- it's not (just) the leaders: it's (primarily) the people, what they want.


You would have preferred the alternative to the fight.

You would have been a Loyalist 235 years ago in the name of peace. On yur knees MFer. You would have preferred allowing the South to secede, splitting the Union and continuing their slave industry in the name of peace. You would have stood aside 68 years ago railing against the French Resistance as violent extremists. You're pathetic. (oda7103sf)


The Greatest Generation was a generation that got heroism, but out of war. That's sick. They were sick. With this tale, near makes me root for the sharks ... and I hate sharks.

- - - - -

Can the same person "care for the soul," who would hack their arm off to survive? Or is this just the province of the beastial?

It is true that what you've given here is what you denied in your anti-National Novel Writing Month post. A whole generation is worthy for their mostly anonymous replication of the kind of marathon struggling people like this dude demonstrated. Some of these very same people who forced their way to 50 000 words in a month, might just in the future be the ones to marshal their way through a war/depression-induced hell of obstacles. (I couldn't do 50 000 in a month, and you're not going to remember me for hacking off my arm to save my life, either.) Given the power of your previous impress, you come pretty close to implicitly making war into the missing backdrop. (i.e. Their mistake is not that they would as a horde show fantastic perseverance at the cost of discretion and care, of denying themselves the ripened ability to enjoy other people's artistic talents, but that they are doing as much outside of a context which would instantly awe all outsiders to their exhausting performance.)

How about try instead, a whole generation left the experimental, original (19) 20s for depression and war ravishment. When you take any two who used to converse profitably but fall into squabble, there may still be something exciting in their coming to and lasting through blows, but boy does it pale compared to what they had going before they broke down into squabbling and self-cover. I don't really want to hear about those who survived or heroiced their way through bleak striving: there must be something savage in them for them to accustom themselves so readily to that much bleakness; and it's an insult to those who might shrivel up some then, but who naturally blossom when people SHOULD naturally do so -- when the atmosphere is allowing, patient, gentle, kind.

Link: “Unbroken,’” “Seabiscui”’ author’s latest triumph (Salon)


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