About the author: Paul Esmérian (1912-1969). The Armenian Cultural Association of Marne-la-Vallée (France) summarizes his life as follows:
After studying at the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly and a BA, Paul Esmerian made Sciences Po. In the army, he was first out of 350 of the Infantry School of Saint-Maixent. Then, entered by competition at the Bank of Indochina, he is appointed in Saigon.
In 1939, mobilized on the spot, he campaigned against Siam (Thailand) as a lieutenant and received the Croix de Guerre of the TOE.
Demobilized after the armistice of 1940 and the arrival of the Japanese in Saigon, he won Manila. A few months later, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, then the Philippines, then under American control. Very quickly, the Americans disappear, leaving the place to the Japanese. Soon after, Paul Esmerian was interned as a Gaullist sympathizer, in Santos Tomas, the University of Manila turned into a camp for civilian detainees…
Paul Esmerian returned to France after the war and devoted himself, among other things, to his collection of rare objects relating to hot-air balloons.
An interesting note is that the book Cartier by Hans Nadelhoffer, which is dedicated to the Paul Esmérian’s brother, Ralph:
But Cartier’s most personal association was with Raphael Esmérian (1903-1976). His father Paul (Bobros) began life as a lapidary in Constantinople before he set out on the trail for the ‘Golden West’, settling as a twenty-year-old in Paris in 1890. Unlike Eknayan, he specialized in colored stones, a field in which the small Armenian colony in Paris, with Esmérian uncle Margossian at its head, held the lead. During the 1920s the Esmérians were the leading gem dealers in Europe, and for fifteen years they maintained a branch in London, which brought them into close contact with Jacques, the youngest of the three Cartier brothers. Later, at the invitation of the jeweller Raymond C. Yard, Raphael Esmérian, as much aesthete as dealer, went to New York, where, as friend and near-neighbour, he was to supply Pierre Cartier with often spectacular colored stones over a period of some thirty years.
About the diary: Originally published in French as Journal d’Extrême-Orient : 1940-1945, Impr. des Presses universitaires de France, 41-Vendome Paris, 1980. Subsequently published in English as A Free Frenchman under the Japanese: The War Diary of Paul Esmérian, Manila, Philippines, 1941-1945, translated by Robert Colquhoun, Matador, 2015.
The same Armenian Cultural Assocation page describes his dairy as follows:
His “Journal” relates, in the first part, the daily life of French soldiers engaged in this war, ignored by most French, against the kingdom of Siam – war where we seem to spend more time looking for patrols lost in the jungle as contact with the opponent.
The second part goes from his arrival in the Philippines until his release in 1945: again, a page of history of the second world war little known.
Scattered on paper, on sheets of fortune paper, even fragments of leaves, pen or pencil, this “Journal” has the breath of authenticity and, despite its telegraphic style, succeeds, by a word, by a touch, to create this third dimension that allows the foreign reader to enter this jungle Cambodian internment camp, to feel live and suffer, the author certainly, but also other inmates.
The quotations from the diary that appear in The Philippine Diary Project come, in turn, from Surviving a Japanese Internment Camp: Life and Liberation at Santo Tomas, Manila, in World War II, by Rupert Wilkinson.