Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

viernes, agosto 06, 2010

Hiroshima After 65 Years

Sixty-five years ago, after learning that a friend who was reported missing after the bombing of Hiroshima had turned up in a hospital there, my mother put together a meager care package and set out from our home in Shikoku to pay a visit. When she returned, she shared her friend’s description of that morning in August 1945.

Moments before the atomic bomb was dropped, my mother’s friend happened to seek shelter from the bright summer sunlight in the shadow of a sturdy brick wall, and she watched from there as two children who had been playing out in the open were vaporized in the blink of an eye. “I just felt outraged,” she told my mother, weeping.

Even though I didn’t fully grasp its import at the time, I feel that hearing that horrifying story (along with the word outrage, which put down deep, abiding roots in my heart) is what impelled me to become a writer. But I’m haunted by the thought that, ultimately, I was never able to write a “big novel” about the people who experienced the bombings and the subsequent 50-plus years of the nuclear age that I’ve lived through — and I think now that writing that novel is the only thing I ever really wanted to do.

In Edward W. Said’s last book, “On Late Style,” he gives many examples of artists (composers, musicians, poets, writers) whose work as they grew older contained a peculiar sort of concentrated tension, hovering on the brink of catastrophe, and who, in their later years, used that tension to express their epochs, their worlds, their societies, themselves.

As for me, on the day last week when I learned about the revival of the nuclear-umbrella ideology, I looked at myself sitting alone in my study in the dead of night . . . . . . and what I saw was an aged, powerless human being, motionless under the weight of this great outrage, just feeling the peculiarly concentrated tension, as if doing so (while doing nothing) were an art form in itself. And for that old Japanese man, perhaps sitting there alone in silent protest will be his own “late work.”

Kenzaburo Oe received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994. This excerpt and the photo are from The New York Times,

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Anonymous Anónimo said...

Someone's lying here.

No one who had just stepped "in the shadow of a sturdy brick wall" could have seen two children "vaporized in the blink of an eye" without also dying.

She would have never survived the shock wave if she had been close enough to observe something like that.

Hiroshima is tragic enough without fairy tales like this.

6:22 p.m.  
Anonymous David Wade Smith said...

I think of this event every August 6. In 1960, 15 years after the bombing, I read John Hersey's "Hiroshima" for a 9th-grade book report--it's a short book, and I tended to go for those when possible. Though it was shocking, it was so far removed from my personal experience that I didn't feel a personal connection. Then, on Armed Forces Day that year, my mother took my brother and me to Andrews AFB for their annual sword-rattling expo of the latest military hardware. Exciting for a 14-year-old boy. Walking back to the parking area when it was over, we passed through a wooded tract that enclosed a fenced-in area containing mothballed aircraft, engines removed and windows covered with a white material. The one in front of all the others was a B-29 bomber with the name "Enola Gay" on its nose. I'm not sure how long I stood there staring at it; with my Brownie camera I took a picture of it that I still have. It was a moment that defined the rest of my life. I felt no major shift in my consciousness at that instant, but I began to see war and its consequences in a different way, and gradually I became immune to patriotic flag-waving and drum-beating. Without that experience, I might have wound up dead in Vietnam, or fucked up in some way by having gone there.

I've come to see the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the great martyrs of our time. It is entirely possible that their sacrifice has, through all the intervening years, saved the world from annihilation by giving us a graphic picture of what nuclear weapons can do.

1:30 p.m.  

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