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Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure Paperback – 18 Jul 1991

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; New edition edition (18 July 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060631120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060631123
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 395,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A fascinating memoir... a vivid diary of prison life." -- "time"

From the Back Cover

When the props of society are taken away, how do people survive? Langdon Gilkey was a young American teacher at Yenching University near Peking, China, when the Japanese military under wartime pressure rounded up all foreigners into an internment camp. Two and a half years later they were released. Santung Compound is based on a journal Dr. Gilkey kept during his imprisonment.

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Format: Paperback
In 1941, the young Langdon Gilkey was teaching English and Philosophy at a university in Peking. China was at that time controlled by Japan, and after Pearl Harbor, all enemy nationals were placed under house arrest. In February, 1943, they were rounded up and moved to internment camps. Gilkey was sent to a compound in Shantung Province. He was there until November, 1945.

Always the philosopher, Gilkey kept an extensive diary, analyzing the events in the camp in terms of what they revealed about human nature. What was revealed about human nature was that it was baaad. Gilkey quotes the Threepenny Opera: "For even saintly folk will act like sinners / Unless they have their customary dinners." For example, seemingly respectable and moral internees, caught stealing food from the camp kitchens, would often make impassioned speeches, about how their actions amounted to patriotic commando raids against the enemy. They clearly believed this, though it was of course ridiculous: the theft hurt the Japanese not at all, but was a very serious problem for the other underfed internees.

In the last ten pages, suddenly, ignoring his own evidence from the camp, Gilkey concludes that humans need faith in the Providence of God to give them the willpower to resist temptation, and to give their lives Purpose. This last section consists of jarringly ill-conceived gibberish; but the rest of the book is fascinating, well-written, and thought-provoking.
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Format: Paperback
Langdon Gilkey's account of his internment at the Shantung Compound in China during WW II paints a vivid picture of what humans are like: and it is not pretty. Selfish, base, mean spirited, quarrelsome - it didn't seem to matter what anyone's ideology consisted of, for the most part people acted in whatever ways promoted their own self interest. (One notable exception was Eric "Ridley" (Eric Liddell), the Olympic gold medalist in track whose story was featured years later in the film Chariots of Fire. His unselfishness was notable for being so unique in this camp.) Gilkey makes insightful comments about law and human nature based on his observations, concluding that laws are not made to abstractly state what is right and what is wrong, but are implemented to restrain destructive self-interested behavior and turn socially impoverishing habits into socially constructive ones. I didn't agree with everything Gilkey said, but this book is an eye opener and definitely worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
Sociologists and psychologists have case studies that enable them to draw various conclusions about human nature and the human condition. Often these studies are severely biased by the various presuppositions of the discipline. In this magnificent book by Langdon Gilkey, the reader gets a first hand account of a mini "civilization". The entire book is insightful. The most rewarding part is the last section. Gilkey's reflections about the human longing for God and trust in providence is brilliant. Gilkey writes from experience, not from the comfort zone of unattached research.
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Format: Paperback
Gilkey shows his readers the weak and pathetic aspects of the often heralded human self. In trying circumstances we often forsake that which should be most dear, furthermore our fragile egos cannot often own up to its actions. We are hypocrite to the bone. Fortunately there is an answer to the human problem, Gilkey demonstrates this also. A challenging but worth while read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very thought provoking and although not my normal sort of reading material, i couldn't put it down. Well done to Gilkey
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