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Hiroshima
(John Hersey)

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HIROSHIMA By John HerseyA reviewer wrote the following recommendation: Anybody who can read, should read this book, another one said it ?stirs the conscience of humanity?. Reading this abstract will not serve even in the smallest measure to describe the intensity of human emotions contained in the pages of Hiroshima, a classic in American literature. John Hersey, was born in China, of American missionary parents returned to the US in 1925, aged ten. He was a journalist in WWII and a Dean of Pearson College of Yale University. He was awarded the Pulitzer prize for his novel A Bell for Adano. Hersey wrote for The New Yorker an article initially intended to be inserted as a serial, an account of the facts of the Nuclear Bomb explosion in Hiroshima through the experiences of six survivors interviewed one year after the tragedy. The magazine?s editorial board impressed by the quality of the article devoted the entire issue to it, without cartoons or advertisements. The entire edition was sold out in a few hours. The article was soon turned into a book. The 1985 re-editing includes a chapter written forty years after the nuclear explosion about the aftermath in the lives of the survivors. The writing of Hersey in this article is detached, accurate, meticulous, warm at times but without editorial comment, like a fly on the wall, relating the events through the eyes and the souls of the six survivors interviewed.The book?s first line states :At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning of August 6, 1945, Japanese time at the moment when the Atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki a clerk in the personnel department of?He then recounts her experiences following the explosion and the days to come. The same format is followed to recall the events as occurred to five other survivors ? Hibakusha ?Methodist Minister Kiyoshi Tanimoto, Hatsuyo Nakamura, a seamstress, mother of three, Dr. Masakazu Fujii a doctor, owner of a private hospital, Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a Jesuit priest stationed in Hiroshima, and Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young doctor at the Red Cross Hospital. They all recall the moment as a flash of the whitest light they had ever seen, noiseless. Although twenty miles away, the explosion had been heard as a very loud thunder. Minutes later , after the deluge of light, followed a cloud that covered the Hiroshima morning in the darkness of night. Days later, the nuclear cloud emitted bright colors, the gardens exploded with intense, almost neon?colored vegetation.The book is full of details and incidents such as the one where there was a platoon of Japanese soldiers crouching under some bushes, asking for help, they had observed the explosion directly, their eyes became two black stains, their faces completely melted, or the one of a man who was riding a horse-drawn carriage the moment of the exlosion and whose entire body was melted and affiched on the wall of a building like a relief sculpture, there are stories about mothers walking with dead children in their arms for days, the injured and the survivors, reaching for the rivers, throwing themselves in the water, to alleviate the burns. The hospitals overwhelmed with thousands of injured and dead. Approximately one hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb. This book is as close as you can come to a minute by minute real time account. There is no discussion in the book regarding the many sociological and humanitarian ramifications of the unimaginable terror inflicted on the Japanese as a group of human beings by the blast of nuclear power. After the initial tragedies, the many dead, the response by the survivors to gather at the Asano Park and help each other, the slow process or rebuilding was undertaken. Then came the radiation related illnesses, later the disfigurement of the disproportionate number of young girls who had been on the streets carrying out civic duties that morning, later came the delayed cancers. There is no mention in the bookabout the enormous background canvas involved in the efforts of some scientists to stop the nuclear race while others were racing to produce the bomb. Some say it is the single most infamous moment in the history of mankind,matched only by the systematic torturing and killing of jewish people at the hands of Japan's ally, Germany. Others claim it stopped the war early and saved many lives. One truth is that this is now a chapter of the horros of war in History. The emperor of Japan, Hiro Ito who was infallible and invincible according to the Imperialistic official Shinto beliefs, disavowed his own semi-divine stature, declared it had been a mistake to join in the War, that the allies had a weapon that threatened to annihilate Japan off the face of the earth and signed the Peace Treaty. John Hersey?s Hiroshima is a document of unbelievable power and honesty, its quality and permanent impact on later generations is but a small wreath laid at the graves of the many nuclear victims, a lesson never to be forgotten.



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