This article surveys the Far East prisoner of war novel from its inception in English public school narratives and racially inflected character profiles to the more critically engaged publications of the last two decades. During the latter period, linear reconstructions of imprisonment, analogous institutional paradigms, and authors' own memories of captivity have gradually declined in influence. Although not wholly absent, their place has been taken by an emphasis on intergenerational trauma, international relations (especially those involving the 1995 commemoration of the end of the war), and real or imagined meetings between surviving prisoners and their former torturers or interrogators. Through a close reading of journalist Jim Lehrer's novel The Special Prisoner (2000), this essay examines the ways in which international relations inflect an imagined encounter between a surviving prisoner and his former torturer. The novelist's sensitivity to contending notions of collective guilt and collective victimhood serve to illustrate the complications that arise at the individual level when forgiveness is freely offered by a trauma survivor and roundly rejected by the agent of that trauma.
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Daniel McKay; THE POETICS OF APOLOGY: Victimhood, Mutual Self-Implication, and Contingent Forgiveness in the Far East Prisoner of War Novel. Common Knowledge 1 September 2015; 21 (3): 464–483. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-3130990
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