Fire From the Ashes: Short Stories about Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Fire from the Ashes: Short Stories about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is an anthology of short stories by Japanese writers who experienced the Atomic bomb or lived during the era. The stories are presented and edited by Nobel Prize Laureate Kenzaburō Ōe. Through their stories a wide spectrum of the devastation is given in unwavering detail. Some of the stories take place within the raw carnage of countless burned people in a setting that is an almost surreal representation of the end of the world. Other stories tell of the aftermath in which people attempt to make sense of what happened, live with their injuries, internalize the death of their loved ones, revisit the bombsite, and experience ostracization within their own country.

In compiling this anthology I have come to realize anew that the short stories included herein are not merely literary expressions, composed by looking back at the past, of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. They are also highly significant vehicles for thinking about the contemporary world over which hangs the awesome threat of vastly expanded nuclear arsenals. They are, that is, a means for stirring our imaginative powers to consider the fundamental conditions of human existence; they are relevant to the present and to our movement toward all tomorrows. (Kenzaburō Ōe)

This book is the cumulative result by a group of writers to intellectually confront the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the realities of living in an age of nuclear weapons. The stories themselves are written at the highest caliber of modern literature and done so with a degree of restraint that adds an immense solemnity. Nuclear annihilation is the ultimate method of dehumanization and self-destruction. It goes beyond all atrocities for at least in traditional genocide the killer must see the faces of their victims, and so acknowledge their humanity, before killing them. A nuclear weapon dropped from the sky or fired as a warhead from miles away is impersonal as ringing a doorbell. Japanese and American people, though tied by this historic event see it in a different light. Japan says it as an atrocity, while most Americans see it as a justified means to an end. Yet if take it on sheer numbers, a devastation of one-hundred 9/11’s in a single instant is still preferable to one Hiroshima or Nagasaki. That is to speak nothing about the agonizing effects of radiation burning and birth deformities that would ensue. This is not a defense of one atrocity over the other, but a condemnation of them all. The question of extinction vs. salvation raised in this book has not ceased to be relevant. The torch has been passed to our generation and it is up to us whether we will use it to cook for the hungry, or continue to crush it out on people from above.

The following writers are included in Fire from the Ashes: Masuji Ibuse, Tamiki Hara, Katsuzo Oda, Yoko Ota, Ineko Sata, Kyoko Hayashi, Mitsuharu Inoue, Hiroko Takenishi.

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