The Jungle is Neutral: Review


The Jungle is Neutral
, by F. Spencer Chapman

The memoir of a British lieutenant in WWII Malaya who conducts guerilla warfare against the Japanese. It’s not a very gripping story. All the successful guerrilla work takes place in the first quarter of the book, and from there on it is one long anticlimax of malaria, dysentery and thrashing through the jungle. Managing not to die in the jungle for a few years is a pretty good feat for a foreigner but he’s surrounded by locals who do it with less effort, and he doesn’t have much interesting to say about it beyond the bare facts. His major accomplishment between all the not succumbing to illness is training up the Malayan Communist Party cadres in tactics. The book ends with the war so I’m left wondering to what degree the post-war MCP insurgency against the British was more effective because of the good lieutenant’s training.

I’ve been trying to read more books about Malaysia. It hasn’t been easy. There are surprisingly few of them, at least what shows up on Amazon. Of those that I’ve found, very few have anything to say about Malays. Anthony Burgess’s Malayan Trilogy novels didn’t have one sympathetic Malay character. Likewise TJIN: there isn’t a single named Malay in the whole book. What ‘s a good book about Malaysia I should read next? Any genre welcome.


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