Come hear award-winning authors Raghu Karnad and Terese Svoboda discuss hidden family histories of the Asia theater of World War II. Moderated by N+1 editor Nikil Saval, author of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace.
When Raghu Karnad found three sepia-toned photographs at his grandmother’s house, he learned the men they depicted were his grandfather and his brothers-in-laws. All three men had served in World War II as part of the Indian Army. The Indian Army was the largest volunteer army in world history, comprised as it was of 2.5 million men in WWII, even though South Asia itself still lived under the yoke of the British Empire. In his book Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War (W.W. Norton & Company 2015), Raghu tells the story of these three brothers-in-arms and India’s crucial, lost history in the Second World War. Telling the gripping adventures of guerrilla infiltrators in the jungles of Burma and the Bengal sappers heading off a Japanese invasion of India, the book is–in the words of Booker Finalist Neel Mukherjee–“a bravura feat of literary-historical imagination–the kind that one would normally associate with a novelist.” Hear Raghu talk about the book on NPR Books here.
A similar quest to unearth a family member’s past catalyzed Terese Svoboda to write her memoir Black Glasses Like Clark Kent: A GI’s Secret from Postwar Japan (Graywolf Press 2008). When her uncle Don Svoboda suddenly committed suicide following the revelations of the Abu Ghraib abuses, Terese found that he had left behind a secret archive of tape cassettes: his audio confessions about what he did while guarding prisoners in postwar Japan. “The prison was getting overcrowded,” he remarks in one tape, and a captain “said he was going to have to start executing the prisoners, the ones in the death cells.” A memoir both political and personal, Black Glasses documents Terese Svoboda’s visit to Japan and her journey into the archives of this hidden chapter of WWII history. As The Brooklyn Rail writes: “Svoboda is an excellent companion: consistently candid, razor sharp, unapologetically flawed, and passionate. She is exactly with whom one would want to discuss these difficult topics.” A Guggenheim Fellow, Terese Svoboda has written five books of poetry, won the NYFA Fellowship three times, and written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review. Hear her talk about the book on C-Span here.
Co-sponsored by N+1
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Open to the public