30 May 2006

The Horrors of War

A review on Hiroshima, a book by John Hersey.

August 06, 1945
, Hiroshima.

Dr. Ferufumi Sasaki walked around one of the corridors of the huge Red Cross Hospital with a blood specimen for a test.

Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, was watching a neighbor tear down his house.

Ms. Toshinki Sasaki, a clerk working at East Asia Tin Works, turned her head to talk to the girl working next to her.

The Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church was about to unload a cart full of clothes.

Dr. Masakazu Fujii sat down to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his single-doctor hospital.

Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge lay on a cot, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit.

The next thing all of them remember was seeing a brilliant white light. When they came back to their senses, they were amongst ruins. The day was dark. Hiroshima fell like a neatly-piled pack of cards blown by a casual gust of wind. An atomic bomb had just ripped through Hiroshima.

Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the bomb (nicknamed Little Boy), wrote in his log, “My God, what have we done?”

Children started shivering heavily and stopped suddenly, dead. Men and women who were burnt and bleeding profusely were unusually quiet, only moaning softly for water. The bomb left about a hundred thousand people dead. Many were and still are physically and mentally affected.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winning author John Hersey, Hiroshima is a journalistic account of these six survivors of the Hiroshima A-bomb. The book records what these six people were doing when they experienced the “white noiseless flash”, their reactions on seeing the widespread destruction, how each of them escaped the conflagration that had materialized throughout the city and the mental and physical trauma that these six had to go through and still go through, as a result of being exposed to severe radiation caused by the A-bomb.

The author went back to Hiroshima almost four decades after this book’s first publication to locate these six people. The last chapter is about how and what these six survivors were doing in life, when he found them again.

Hersey’s narrative is engrossing. His description of Hiroshima after the bombing is detailed. Though the book is only about 150 pages long, a lot is covered. The language is simple and uncomplicated, thus making it readable even for people with very limited knowledge of English.

The book is disturbing to a certain extent and hence may not go down well with some people. Reading a book dealing entirely with a catastrophe and it’s aftermath can be harrowing for some people. But for people like me who feel strongly about war and it’s disastrous consequences, this book fuels the fire within.

© Guru Smaran

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