Posted by: Gregoryno6 | November 17, 2011

History strange and unhealthy.

I’m currently half way through this book.

I bought it on my trip to Melbourne over Christmas. Having read one of Louis Fitzgibbon‘s books on the Katyn massacre a few months previously, I was expecting that Annihilation Zones would give its subject a similar scholarly treatment. In retrospect, considering the bookshop where I bought it, I was possibly naive in that expectation. Especially as I was already familiar with Polyester’s preferred literature – if not its mission statement.

AZ focuses on three mass murder events during the 20th Century: the Japanese grab for conquest in eastern Asia, the slave camp industry engineered by Stalin, and Pol Pot’s insane killing spree in Cambodia. The potential in those topics for commentary upon the darkness in men’s souls is obvious, but the author manages most of the time to avoid philosophical explorations. AZ is history in the same sense that Star Trek is science.  A few generally known facts are convenient points around which to weave a rich fantasy. I’ve got nothing against playing with history – one of the best books written on the Great South Land is Russell Braddon’s Images of Australia, and that reads like a collaboration between Lewis Carroll and Joseph Heller. It was dryly funny. AZ is heavy with overdescription and so horrific in parts that reading through constitutes a form of self-torture.

It’s not one to put in your grandmother’s Christmas stocking. Practically everything is coloured by the author’s interest in cannibalism, homosexual rape, and torture. The first section – the only part I’ve completed so far – examines the experiments carried out by Unit 731 and the treatment of POWs. Tortures inflicted by the Japanese guards seem too obscene to be true – I take what reassurance I can from a comment by a reviewer at Amazon, that the book cites no sources for its contents. Obviously someone thought up that monstrousness; I’d rather it was an English academic who pulled the wings off too many butterflies in his childhood. This is of course pure speculation on my part but not unreasonable. At any rate, better him thinking of it than crazed sons of Nippon running a POW camp.

There is only one darkly amusing moment in this part of the book. The author claims, in what is for him rather roundabout terms, that after the Japanese surrender in 1945 General Douglas MacArthur took the Emperor Hirohito aside and gave him a taste of the pink toothbrush.

Which is marginally more credible than a meeting between Stalin and Hitler, which the author claims took place outside Lvov in October 1939.

The meeting was a disaster from the first moment… As soon as Hitler and Stalin had come face to face, on either side of a map-strewn wooden table, they had begun a ferocious argument about the future division and form of Europe… The interpreters were unable to keep up with the angry exchange of voices, and the debate soon lapsed into incoherent exclamations from Hitler and expectorated insults from Stalin, whose temper, when provoked, was brutal. Stalin wanted immediate control of the Baltic states, and – increasingly furious at the sneering Hitler – he abruptly pushed aside the maps which the pair had already scrawled over with pencil strokes, announcing that was going to arbitrarily seize all of eastern Europe, and half of Germany to boot. The heated argument descended into an exchange of blows, and the two dictators’ interpreters fled from the room leaving behind only the terrified valets. Although Hitler was the younger man by over ten years, Stalin’s stocky build and long training in the Tiflis seminary soon gave him the upper hand, and he was able to pin the gasping Hitler on his stomach on the table and cursorily sodomise him. Within fifteen seconds it was all over. After glaring at one another for the last time, the two dictators exited from either end of the railway carriage. By the evening, they were both back in their centres of power.

Визг как свинья, Адольф!

I suspect that that’s as good as AZ is going to get. Which is a shame; the author definitely possesses a skerrick or two of storytelling ability.

It’s just a shame he tries to disguise his gift for fiction by pretending historical accuracy.


  1. Hi,
    It’s not a book that I think I would like to read, but I can tell you that the torture some people can think up is beyond comprehension.

    We went to Cambodia in 1999 mainly to see the Ancient Ruins, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, but of course while there we stayed in Phnom Penh for a few days before venturing on.

    We did the “tour” of the torture “chambers” of the Pol Pot era, in a few different locations, and it really was sickening. There was even photos of what took place, documented evidence, and the things that were thought up to do to these people, was unbelievable.

    I thought Hitler was bad enough, but this was very bad as well, maybe because I saw it with my own eyes, including the sculls of hundreds of children. Don’t dismiss everything that you may read in the book, somethings may not be true, but you just never know.

  2. There are descriptions of Japanese tortures that I really, sincerely hope are just the product of the author’s imagination, mags, but as you say, it’s not impossible that they really took place.

  3. I dunnoooo’ the Japanese, were pretty fanatical. Amazing what two explosions can do, in changing attitude.

    Those folks were radiated again with recent disasters. Just could be karma..

    • ‘Fanatical’ is almost an understatement. Brutality was an ingrained part of the Japanese miltary. Higher ranks were expected to hand out beatings and humiliations to those below them. When the troops got their hands on a few gaijin prisoners there was plenty of resentment waiting to be unbottled.

  4. Second look..VissarionoBich had terrible teeth..

    • When you spend your days sitting at a desk signing death warrants and your nights enjoying the mouthwork of tall busty blond teenage Estonian girls, who’s got time for the dentist?
      I’m reading the final section now on Cambodia. I really didn’t think the book could get any more warped, but according to the author (supposedly a professor, but not of creative writing) the old king of Cambodia liked fisting young concubines. And Pol Pot fucked his sisters.

  5. My grandfather fought in Burma in WW2. He used to tell me some awful things about the Japanese. I was only 5 or 6 at the time! I’m still wary of a country that sells used childrens underwear in vending machines to be honest.

    • Their comic books are not exactly bland, either.

  6. There’s nothing ever funny about rape, except for the idea of Stalin “schooling” Adolf–that’s too funny. I suppose it could have happened–maybe that’s why Hitler was so keen on trying to kick Russia’s ass.

    My dad was on an American ship at the end of WWII, right off the shore of Japan. His diary mentions that they picked up a couple British servicemen who had escaped the Japanese and made it to shore, then signaled to the Americans, who were able to rescue them. The ex-prisoners told the sailors that “Japs put American doctors in building, raped nurses, ran wedges in them and set wedges afire–put nurses in with doctors and set buildings afire and burned them”.

    • I knew a Digger who fought the Japs in New Guinea. All he could ever say about them was “The Yanks didn’t drop enough atom bombs.”
      He never gave me any details about what he’d seen. If he saw anything like what this book describes he probably thought he was doing me a favour by keeping silent – I was just seventeen at the time.

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