CBR12Bingo – No Money – Library Book
The Bridge on the River Kwai
So this book is the book the movie is based on, though the book is relatively small in scope compared to the grandness and sheer size of the movie. It most reminds me of the differences between the intimate spaces of CS Forrester’s The African Queen and the John Huston movie of the same.
The book is a slim 200 pages and is almost entirely realistic narration and pretty straight forward characterization as well. The plot involves a power struggle between a Japanese prisoner of war camp commander and the British colonel ostensibly in charge of a group of captured British servicemen who have been tasked with building a bridge over a river in the middle of a jungle. This bridge is not an engineering marvel by any stretch but is instead a temporary or expeditious need in the war effort. The British colonel suggests to the Japanese commander that allowing him and his few fellow officers to act in their capacity of leaders will be more productive to the effort than forcing them to work. He is not trying to skirt work, but is trying to protect his men, who need some sense of safety and stability. The novel then mostly works as a push and pull of this power struggle, but eventually gives way to a larger question of the role of the British prisoner of war, whether to work to survive or disrupt. This question comes into play when it is suggested that the bridge be sabotaged.
This is an interesting novel in part because Boulle is French, and so the question of British honor is not one that he would be intimately familiar with. I also think the question of whether survival is a justifiable motivation in wartime feels almost antiquated to me now, but was certainly in the ethos at the time. Also, it’s weird that the guy who wrote The Bridge on the River Kwai also wrote Planet of the Apes.