Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Laurens van der Post

An short extract from an interview with Lauren van der Post conducted by Jane Taylor, and published in the October, 1970, issue of Books and Bookmen.

He has the distanced eyes of an explorer; but it is perhaps his paramount concern with what Gerard Manley Hopkins called 'the inscape of man' that has given Lauren van der Post's travel books their special quality. His works of fiction have been illumined by the same clear light - he has now written a book about war.
There can be few subjects that have given rise to such highly charged debate, to such searchings of conscience, as that of the world's first atom bomb, dropped on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945. In The Night of the New Moon, published on the 25th anniversary of Hiroshima, Laurens van der Post tells from his own experience something of the life of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and in particular of the effect of the dropping of the bomb.
'Many people have written about the bomb but they seem to regard it as something that happened all on its own when it was actually part of our vast tragedy. I think this particular book of mine is concerned with the processes in man which have produced this kind of tragedy throughout human history. Either by commission or omission we are all in a sense responsible for war when it happens.
'One thing that is perhaps surprising is that I didn't write about it immediately the war was over, but this was partly because I was afraid that it might be used merely as an atrocity story against the Japanese by war crimes investigators - and that was the last thing I wanted. I believe that war only has a meaning in so far as it gives one the opportunity when it is over of saying 'All right, we have wiped the slate clean. Here is a moment of innocence in history and we can start afresh'. The awful thing is that people don't take it as an opportunity to start afresh.'