Hiroshima (book)

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1st edition
Author(s) John Hersey
Country Japan
Language English
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Publication date 1946
Pages 160 pp
ISBN 0-679-72103-7
OCLC Number 680840
Dewey Decimal 940.54/25 19
LC Classification D767.25.H6 H4 1989
Preceded by A Bell for Adano (1944)
Followed by The Wall (1950)

Hiroshima is the title of a magazine article written by Pulitzer winner John Hersey that appeared in The New Yorker's issue for August 31, 1946, one year after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, at 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945. The article was soon made into a book.



[edit] The Story

The article and book describe the events after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in detail, focusing on the accounts of six individuals:

Name Details
Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto A Methodist minister educated in the United States at Emory University was 3,500 yards from the center of the explosion Kiyoshi Tanimoto.jpg
Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura A war widow and seamstress, the mother of three young children was 1350 yards from the center of the explosion Hatsuyo Nakamura.jpg
Dr. Masakazu Fujii A prosperous doctor and owner of a private hospital, tried to commit suicide, was 1550 yards from the center of the explosion Masakazu Fujii.jpg
Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge (Makoto Takakura) A Jesuit priest stationed in the city was 1400 yards from the center of the explosion Wilhelm Kleinsorge.jpg
Dr. Terufumi Sasaki A young doctor at the Red Cross hospital was 1650 yards from the center of the explosion Terufumi Sasaki.jpg
Miss Toshiko Sasaki (Sister Dominique Sasaki) A clerk at the East Asia Tin Works (no relation to Terufumi Sasaki) was 1600 yards from the center of the explosion Toshiko Sasaki.jpg

Each account is followed by a brief statement describing how close each person was to the center of the blast.

The article consisted of four parts:

Title Summary
"A Noiseless Flash" Describing the moment of the blast
"The Fire" Describing the devastation that the city experienced immediately after the blast, and the efforts of the hibakusha ("explosion-affected people") to reach safety in Asano Park
"Details Are Being Investigated" Describing the rumors about what happened that were rampant throughout the city, while the hibakusha provide help and comfort to one another
"Panic Grass and Feverfew" Describing the weeks after the attack, as the hibakusha attempt to rebuild their lives, while facing blast and radiation induced medical conditions that hamper their readjustment to a normal life
"The Aftermath" The narrator returns to Hiroshima and the lives of the main characters

Though Collier's Weekly had previously published an account of the bombing, the editors of the New Yorker recognized the impact that the article would have by providing a human face to the victims, and devoted the entire August 31, 1946 edition to it. Although the four chapters were intended for serialization in four consecutive issues of the magazine, the editors decided to devote one entire issue only to it. There were no other articles and none of the magazine's signature cartoons. Readers, who had never before been exposed to the horrors of nuclear war from the perspective of the actual people who lived through it, were quick to pick up copies, and the edition sold out within just a few hours. The article was read in its entirety over the radio and discussed by newspapers. Shortly after it appeared, the Book-of-the-Month Club printed it as a book and distributed it free of charge to all of its members. Only in Japan was the distribution of the book discouraged by the American Occupation Government.

Despite its popularity, the book, which appeared as the Cold War was gaining momentum, faced some criticism by people who either felt it was too sympathetic to the victims, thereby challenging the use of nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union, and by others who felt that Hersey's tone was too dry and journalistic. Nevertheless, the book is still popular today, and often cited by anti-nuclear weapons activists.

[edit] Aftermath

Modern editions of the book contain a final, fifth chapter, The Aftermath, written forty years after the original article. In it, Hersey returned to Japan to discover what happened to the six people he originally interviewed in the ensuing years:

  • Masakazu Fujii was poisoned one night in a gas leak while he slept. He spent 11 years in a coma before he died on January 12, 1973.
  • Wilhelm Kleinsorge became a Japanese citizen and took a Japanese name, Makoto Takakura. He died at St. Luke's Hospital in Kobe on November 19, 1977.
  • Despite her lasting radiation sicknesses, Hatsuyo Nakamura was able to earn an income working the industrial line of a mothball factory. Nakamura retired after thirteen years of employment, and began to rediscover peace and joy in her life.
  • Toshiko Sasaki cared for her three younger siblings, and later became a nun in the Society of the Helpers of the Holy Souls and took the name Sister Dominique Sasaki.
  • Dr. Terufumi Sasaki had prospered with his own private clinic, and several experiences, such as a bad operation for lung cancer and his wife's death, had developed his outlook on life and death.
  • Kiyoshi Tanimoto had become the "celebrity" of the group, touring the United States to raise money to rebuild his church, help young girls injured in the blast with things such as reconstructive surgery, and establish the Hiroshima Peace Center. On one such visit, described in detail, he appeared on the popular television program This Is Your Life where he was placed in the uncomfortable position of meeting with Captain Robert A. Lewis, copilot of the Enola Gay, which dropped the bomb on the city.

[edit] Radio play

Actor John Valentine adapted the book into a radio play, which was recorded for Pacifica Radio Archives, in association with Artists United and the Feminist Majority. The recording was directed by Michael Haney with music by Mark Snow. It was broadcast in 2004 and featured actors Tyne Daly, Ruby Dee, Roscoe Lee Brown, Daniel Benzali, Esther K. Chae, Michael Chinyamurindi, Tony Plana, Jeanne Sakata, Chris Tashima, and Valentine.

[edit] Further reading

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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