French missionary’s WWII diary offers a glimpse of life during wartime in Penang

‘The diary is a ‘people’s history’ where daily life – made of small things and almost nothing – matters more than the ‘big history’, but this account also shows great resilience and capacity to adapt to constraints,’ says Jardin. Photos: Areca Books/Serge Jardin

One can only imagine the significance of the moment when French historian Bernard Patary stumbled upon handwritten accounts dating back to the 1930s, in the archives of the College General in Penang, about 15 years ago.

This was a black hardcover notebook and numerous exercise books with brown covers. There were times when the author even wrote on loose sheets of paper that were then inserted into the book proper when it was safe to do so.

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