In English for the first time: Ishikawa Tatsuzo's compelling account of the Sino-Japanese War
Ikiteiru heitai (Living soldiers or Soldiers alive) by Ishikawa Tatsuzo (1905-1985) is arguably the best piece of war literature to emerge from the Sino-Japanese War of 1937 to 1945. In Japan, the novella has been published and republished throughout the postwar era, most recently as a Chuko Bunko in 1999, and is now available for the first time in English. Providing a strong indictment not only of the conduct of the Japanese military in China but also of war itself, Ikiteiru heitai is a powerful, deeply disturbing work.
In 1937-38, when the novella was written and published, Ishikawa was a young man of 32. On 29 December 1937, he was sent by the editors of the liberal journal Chuo Koron to chronicle Japanese military exploits in China. The obvious place to go was Nanjing, the recently taken capital city of Nationalist China. Arriving in Nanjing via Shanghai on or about 8 January 1938, Ishikawa spent eight days in the city, talking to Japanese infantry soldiers rather than officers, before returning to Japan and completing the manuscript of Ikiteiru heitai in just eleven days. It was published in February, in the March edition of Chuo Koron.
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