29 October 2016 Knowledge instead of hatred – tensions at the Conrad Festival
“During a war, everyone becomes a criminal, and the experiences of a prisoner of war cannot be made into a myth”, said Richard Flanagan, revising notions such as patriotism and heroism.
Samar Yazbek spoke up for the dignity of the victims of the Syrian War, whose photographs are published in the TV and the Internet. She also reminded us that the Syrian revolution was monopolised, and that the Syrian people are under occupation. The notions such as fighting or heroism do not correspond to the situation of civilians in the country at all.
During the meeting titled “The Settlers”, Richard Flanagan talked to Michał Nogaś about his work on The Narrow Road to the Deep North and his decision to go to Japan and find guards working on the construction of the Burma Death Railway. “I knew they had to be alive”, he said. At the end, he managed to find three guards. One of them was a doctor. When asked about Australians, he said that they died because of their bad hygiene, and as a doctor he did not feel the obligation to help them, for he did not see them as people. “There are some moments in life, when you feel that the sadness of the entire world is crushing you”, the writer summed up. The second guard was very kind and said that he did not remember much. Among the prisoners he was called the Lizard, and known for his ruthlessness. “I asked him to hit me like the prisoners of war were beaten. He said it was ridiculous, but he agreed”. The 92-year old man immediately changed in front of the writer’s eyes, assumed a proper punching form and struck a proper blow. “The memory of punching remained in his body, in his tendons, muscles and nerves”. After three strikes, the writer felt that the entire room was shaking, pictures started falling from the walls and trinkets fell from shelves. “I thought that it was something in me that broke as a result of this meeting, but it turned out it was an earthquake, which struck Japan at the that very moment”. “Only God can play with such coincidences”, he summed up.