Books: Recessional

A GENTLE OCCUPATION

by Dirk Bogarde

Knopf; 360 pages; $10.95

The abrupt surrender of Japan in 1945 left British forces holding, unwillingly and uncomfortably, much of what had been the Dutch empire in Southeast Asia. Nationalistic and anticolonial pressures were building among the Asian populations of the islands, and the former Dutch rulers were dead or not yet repatriated from Japanese prison camps. The job of the British was more easily stated than accomplished: to get out, leaving behind an orderly civilian government. Given the realities and the prejudices of the time, this meant a Dutch government. Yet the surviving Dutch resented...

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