Historic Fiction, Japan
July 30th 2015
August 18, 2021 August 21, 2021
Beat the Backlist, Library Love
One of the greatest Japanese authors, never published before in Italy, relives the bombing of Nagasaki in August 1945. A memory that continues to burn in the bodies and minds of survivors and is renewed with fear of modern nuclear accidents. "The darkness vanished, making room for a light between blue and red, the color of hydrangea when it begins to bloom. It wasn't hot, it wasn't cold. It looked like a ghostly light as solid as a wall "
Translated here for the first time in Italian, Kyoko Hayashi is an absolute reference point for the memory of the atomic bomb and the elaboration of that event of absolute destruction. She the author has always considered herself a "witness of August 9" and as such she has taken on the narrative of the nuclear holocaust so that she does not sink into oblivion and maintain her value as a warning for future generations. In the short story "The Two Tomb Signs" the facts of Nagasaki are seen through the story of two teenage girls, Yòko and Wakako. "The place of the rite" retraces the days following the bombing to cover a span of thirty years. "Il jarattolo" tells of the survivors living with the terror of the consequences of the atomic bomb, while "II crop" expresses fears for the contamination generated by the civil use of nuclear power.
About the book
The book is a collection of four short stories, plus a note from the author (please read the note) and a note from the curator of the book. The stories are: Two Grave Markers, The Empty Can, Ritual of Death and “The Harvest” not translated into English. The first is a heartbreaking tale of two friends struck by the atomic bomb, the second is the story of a group of friends who years later find themselves at their old school and remember one of their friends who always kept a tin can with her after the atomic bomb, the third is a first-person story of a survivor and the fourth differs a lot from the common thread of the atomic bomb because it speaks of the Tokaimura disaster of ’99 (or rather it is inspired, because I don’t remember reading this name in the story but most likely if there were the name, I didn’t connect it since I didn’t know what happened).
Now, where do I start? I have so much to say that my mind is full of confusion.
What I think
I loved the book. First of all the stories are obviously translated into Italian, but the titles are also in Japanese and since I started studying this language I was pleased (above all I was pleased to be able to read almost all the titles without help).
As a lover of Japan, reading about its history is always a pleasure and although I obviously knew about this event, I discovered many new things. I did not know the author, now I want to read other works by her. I did not know about the law supporting the victims of the atomic bombing, now I want to know more. I didn’t even know about the Tokaimura accident and I have already learnt more. I honestly thought that the first Japanese nuclear accident was the one in Fukushima after the earthquake of March 11, how naive I was! And how many things are still unknown.
I was impressed by a scene from the third story. The protagonist talks about grass and flowers that also grow in Nagasaki, in the epicentre of the bomb and this immediately made me remember that for the Japanese people, flowers are important, that despite everything, flowers will bloom in the future for generations that are not born, yet (yes I’m thinking as Hana ha Saku – 花 は 咲 く -) and the meaning that the author gives to this scene.
I must say that I didn’t like the last story so much until I read the author’s note and then I understood (and the rating went from 4 stars to 5).
Also I must say that the author had the courage of a lions. In the note she says she went to America to visit Ground Zero – which has nothing to do with the twin towers – where the bomb was first tested. She had a lot of courage to also go to the American atomic museums, which certainly celebrate the fact that they have built an invention of such power.
I also wondered, like the author, why the Japanese hold the Americans so high and have forgotten what they did to them (of course I know why the United States dropped the bomb, but as a person who lives after the war I wonder if there was another solution) and they consider the Americans on a pedestal enough to kiss their ass and do what they want (but the whole world is like this and honestly I’m tired of this nation, I believe that without them the world would be better). I agree with the author when she says that we must not forget what they did and that the government should have a tougher stance. On the other hand what the Japanese did should not be forgotten (don’t get me wrong).
Now as for nuclear power, read through to understand my thinking before lynching me. Do I support nuclear power? I am a chemist so chemical experiments are my bread. I believe that the discovery of nuclear power has enormous potential so I should say yes, BUT for now humans are not yet able to use it safely, given the accidents that have occurred over the years. So for now I don’t support nuclear power, when one day, man’s potential will have developed more than it is now, maybe we can use nuclear power (as energy production eh! I’m just talking about this) in total safety, but until then, no, man is unable to use nuclear power to produce energy.
I recommend the book because I believe that everyone (especially Americans) should know about the effects that atomic weapons have on man, of the extermination of civilians that the Americans carried out on August 6 and 9, 1945, of the people who still suffer from fallout of those days and future generations who will suffer from these two days of human madness. Yes, the book really touched me.