Notebook

I also made friendships of a kind with several of the young Japanese guards… They too were bored, only a few years older than me, and had little hope of seeing their families again soon, if ever. I knew they could be viciously brutal, especially when acting under the orders of their NCOs, but individually they were easy-going and likeable. Their military formality and never-surrender ethos were of course very impressive to a 13-year-old looking for heroes to worship.

For me, the most important consequence of internment was that for the first time in my life I was extremely close to my parents. I slept, ate, read, dressed and undressed within a few feet of them in the same small room, in many ways like the poorer Chinese families for whom I had felt so sorry in Shanghai. But I revelled in this closeness, which I assume has been a central part of human behaviour throughout most of its evolution. Lying in bed at night I could, if I wanted to, reach out and take my mother’s hand, though I never did.

J.G. Ballard, “Miracles of Life – Shanghai to Shepperton: An Autobiography”.

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