Friday, August 6, 2010

A noiseless flash...

65 years ago today.

My copy is 118 pages, of regular size print. You can read it in an afternoon.

It's just a story about 6 people, all ordinary people, and strangers to each other.

It's just a collection of interviews, first published by "The New Yorker" magazine in 1946, and later put together as a book.

It's never, to my knowledge, gone entirely out of print. You can buy it, used and new, on Amazon for a few bucks (no, I'm not selling my copy. It's a 1946 original, and I stumbled across it in 1996 for $12.85 at a used book store).

It's called, simply, "Hiroshima", and it was written by John Hersey.

It has no science in it. No history of the development of the bomb. No history of World War II (aside from the immediate content). No political commentary on the right or wrong of war. Minimal, if any, emotion. If anything, it's rather dry and simply factual about what the people interviewed said.

It's the collected experiences of 6 people, who at 8:15 a.m. were all 1/2 to 2 miles from the center of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb explosion, and their experiences in the minutes to a few days after.

None of them (like most of us) were politicians. They were:

A Catholic priest
A clerical worker
An internist
A Methodist minister
A widowed seamstress with young children
and a surgeon.

4 men, 2 women.

If you haven't read it, I'm telling you to invest a few bucks and an afternoon in it. It's as powerful today as it was then.


Anonymous said...

I remember this book! I read it in high school and loved it. Thanks for reminding me, I must get it for my son.

arzt4empfaenger said...

I'm going to give that one a try. Thanks for the recommendation!

The Mother said...

Haven't read that one, but I did read "Black Rain" last year. It follows a semi-fictional man through the first weeks after to years later, and how the bomb changed the people. Powerful, yet almost emotionless--as though the man simply didn't have any left to give.

Courtney Schoenfeld said...

I just bought it on Amazon for under 6 bucks. I was having a discussion yesterday about how it's important to protect actual, physical, non-digital books. "Hiroshima" is the type of book I was talking about. The world will survive without John Grisham Novels, but the value of "Hiroshima" and books like it are incredibly important.

round.crow said...

Another short, unexpectedly touching piece is in (of all places) Dave Barry Does Japan.

I went to the Peace Museum (interesting name, that) when I was in Hiroshima a few years ago - not for the faint of heart or stomach, but not to be missed.

One part that has stayed with me, though, was walking out to see the city going about its business, looking much like any other Japanese city of its size. Life will go on.

evitafjord said...

I love that book so much. I first read it in 4th grade and picked it up every few years after that through school, but it's been a long time now since I read it last. Finding a copy has been added to my to-do list.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good! Will check it out.
Psssssssttttttt...65 years ago.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Shit, you're right. Time for another Diet Coke.

I fixed it.

I suck at math. Always have.

The Good Cook said...

I am going to see if it's available on Kindle. Sounds like an interesting read.

Amanda said...

I visited Japan in 1993, just a bit after "Dave Barry Does Japan" came out. We also visited Hiroshima.

There just aren't the words.

Horace S. Patoot said...

Here are electronic versions in several formats:

Louise said...

I just ordered it used on Amazon. It's been in print long enough that there are a number of different editions in print. This particular paperback has used copies from $0.01 on Amazon:

Danimal said...

I spent my senior year of college at a small school in the mountains around Hiroshima. Talking to the survivors was always an amazing, and horrifying, experience. If you get a chance to check out the peace memorial park, you should definitely do so.

Every time I took a streetcar into the city we passed by the "genbaku dome" (the skeletal remains of a building on the outside of the park). It never failed to choke me up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip, it'll be coming from Amazon soon (the original 1946, no less.)

Anonymous said...

i, too, read this as a child. it stuck. ... real= it does not require fission for humans to be industrially brutal to each other.

Something Different said...

I think this book was the only required reading in high school that I actually enjoyed.

By the way, this is my first time commenting on your blog, but I've been enjoying it for a while. I don't know why none of the doctors I've ever been to have a sense of humor like you do. ;-)

RSDS said...

My dad was in the Army during WW II. He was on a transport ship in the north Pacific. He saw the mushroom cloud on the horizon. The suicide mission to Japan was canceled.


Terry said...

I just put it on hold at the library,I love libraries.

wv.trual....seems to fit somehow

mcgee said...

Read that back in junior high. Gave me nightmares.

Anonymous said...

I have read it too and you're right, it's very powerful.

Mira said...

I'm not sure if I read *that* book in particular, but I distinctly recall reading two books on Hiroshima as a Freshman in high school. The books were full of first-hand accounts and pictures.

Those books completely changed how I view war. I think those should be required reading instead of Romeo & Juliet.

Raine said...

I'll have to check that book out. On a similar vein, I'd recommend the book 'Japan at War'. I sadly do not recall who wrote it, but it's an oral history of WWII from the Japanese perspective, with interviews from all sorts of people. There is, fittingly, a chapter devoted to both atomic bombs.

Barbara Preuninger said...

I visited Hiroshima in early December 1996, and visited the museum and the peace memorial. In the museum, we got a sense of just how hot and loud and horrifying the whole thing was.

As we were leaving the museum, there was a soft snow falling. Looking up at the dome of that last-standing building covered with snow and feeling the silence of the whole place was one of the strangest feelings in my life.

One thing I knew for sure after that: I never want to see this happen ever again on this earth. No matter the politics of the situation, the sum total of human action that led up to that event created an unfathomable evil. (Keep in mind, it wasn't just human life affected, but ALL life in the immediate vicinity; there was just NOTHING there) We all have ways in which we contribute toward (or fail to stop) the evil that happens in this world, and it behooves us all to look within ourselves for the ways to change this.

We need to figure out how to avoid getting into situations where there's no way out aside from using nuclear weapons. I'm quite afraid of how things will go over the next 50 years or so.

Anonymous said...

Don't know if you still see comments 3+ years after a post, but I spent way too long last weekend snickering my way through your blog... and then found this post.

Probably would never have come across this book otherwise. You're right, it is kind of dry and factual. And harrowing.

I'll be hanging onto this book. Thanks for this post.

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