Farthest Field

Farthest Field

An Indian Story of the Second World War

Book - 2015
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"A brilliantly conceived nonfiction epic, a war narrated through the lives and deaths of a single family. A young man from the sleepy south Indian coast, sensing adventure and opportunity, follows his brothers-in-law into the army--and onto the front lines of India's Second World War. His army fights for the British empire, even as his countrymen fight for freedom from it, and Indian soldiers end up on both sides of the vast conflict. The narrative travels from Madras to Eritrea, Iraq, and Burma, unfolding the saga of a young family amazed by their swiftly changing world and devastated by its violence. The Farthest Field reveals how the war transformed India, its army, and the British empire that had ruled the country for so long and would, barely two years after the end of the war, abandon it to the horrors of partition. In penetrating nonfiction prose, Raghu Karnad retrieves from obscurity the epic of India's Second World War--a war the world reveres, but India would choose to forget"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 2015
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780393248098
Characteristics: xx, 300 pages : maps ; 25 cm
Call Number: 940.541241 KAR


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May 12, 2019

Well written presentation using a Parsi family's experience during the Second World War as a basis for discussing the Indian experience in the war, from the perspective of a component of the British Empire. Left me wanting to learn more, gave a taste of the war from the Indian perspective. The afterward gives a certain description of the Indian view, with independence coming so shortly after the end. Conveys a feeling that this experience, India fighting for the Allies, was India's Vietnam, something that India wanted to forget (despite being on the "winning" side).
Talking with several Indian friends and acquaintances, they interpreted the Indian view of WWII a bit differently than Mr. Karnad, in one case describing India's view as "That's history. Let's move on," much like other episodes in Indian history (Mughal rule, etc.). The description of the author's great uncle's experience in operations in Burma and especially the battles around Imphal and Kohima are stark.
Would recommend for anyone with an interest in an under-appreciated theater of the conflict, and those with interest in the end of the British Raj and the origins of India as an independent nation. I am still left with the feeling that India fought on the "right" side, and that we should acknowledge the substantial Indian contribution, despite the valid criticisms of British rule. The that India fought might not have, but itself, won the conflict, but it certainly could have lost the war. For that reason alone, I thank India for her sacrifices that helped save the world.

Aug 24, 2017

This personal account of family members in the "Forgotten War" in north-eastern India; and northeastern Africa and the Levant is written with picture-painting prose and strong feeling. As the story is reconstructed, as the main characters were killed during the war, from the memories of soldiers-in-arms, personal letters, and military records, then the account occasionally feels contrived; and the threads of the three character's activities are sometimes confusing. This account is worth reading, in particular the Afterword, for the implications for contemporary events in these three areas of the globe. The book has two appendices, endnotes, a substantial bibliography, and an index.

Sep 06, 2015

"The spine-cracking encyclopedia of Indian castes was ironed flat onto a single khaki page." Karnad's words illuminate even the most banal of war's happenings.


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Aug 24, 2017

"The photographs of three young men stood in [the author's] grandmother's house ... beheld but never fully noticed. They had all fought in the Second World War, a fact that surprised him. ... The years 1939-45 might be the most revered, deplored, and replayed in modern history. Yet India's extraordinary role has been concealed ... In riveting prose, Karnad retrieves the story of a single family ... and with it, the greater revelation that is India's Second World War. "Farthest Field" narrates the [forgotten] epic of India's war, in which the largest volunteer army in history fought for the British Empire even as its countrymen fought to be free of it. It carries us from Madras to Peshawar, Egypt to Burma - unfolding the saga of a young family amazed by their swiftly changing world and swept up in its violence." [Publisher's description on front flap.]


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