Reading Christopher Hitchens’s memoir Hitch-22, I was beginning to think that if he murdered his darlings there’d be not a word left living. But his self-regarding verbosity is permissable when you encounter passages like the following, from chapter 3, Fragments from an Education. He is quoting from memory his friend Ian Watt, who spent time in Japanese prison camps during the war:
Well, we were in a cell that was built for six but was holding about sixteen of us. There wasn’t much food and we hadn’t been given any water for quite a while. The heat was absolutely ferocious. Dysentery had begun to take its toll, which was distinctly disagreeable at such close quarters…
Added to this unpleasantness, we could hear one of our number being rather badly beaten by the Japanese guards, with rifle-butts it seemed, in their guardroom down the corridor. At this rather trying moment one of my young subalterns, who’d managed to fall asleep, started screaming and flailing and yelling. He was shouting: “No, no — please don’t… Not any more, not again, Oh God please.” Hideous noises like that. I had to take a snap decision to prevent panic, so I ordered the sergeant to slap him and wake him up. When he came to, he apologized for being a bore but brokenly confessed that he’d dreamed he was back at Tonbridge.