Richard Flanagan’s masterpiece, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” is one of those reads powerful enough to move one to tears—more than once in my case. I heard a radio interview in which Flanagan recounted how his research landed him in Japan, face to face with a notoriously brutal former Japanese prison guard known as “the Lizard.” Flanagan’s father suffered at the hands of this very man whose trademark vicious and repeated slaps were much feared. Wanting to experience this for himself, Flanagan finally persuaded the now “courteous, kindly and generous old man” to demonstrate the slaps for him. He reported that the first and second strikes were not unbearable, but that after the third one, he felt as if the whole building was shaking and swaying—because it was, thanks an earthquake that had just hit. Flanagan went on to describe the fear he saw in the man’s eyes and his realization that, generously it must be said, whatever evil was, it wasn’t in the room with them.