Today is the 65th anniversary of the American atomic attack on the southern Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. For the first time, the U.S. government is sending a representative to the commemoration ceremony. Liberation, the left-wing Parisian paper, has a worthwhile photo gallery on the subject:
The German press is of course also watching closely. The Berlin Tagesspiegel carries a long testimony by a bombing survivor, a photo gallery of standard images, and a story with a critique from the head of the commemoration activity noting that American participation in the ceremony came “too late” (all links in German, sorry). Sueddeutsche Zeitung carries an interview with a survivor as well (“Eyewitness to Apocalypse”), a photo of an American POW killed in the blast, and an interactive graph on nuclear weapons dangers today upon which North Korea stands out nicely.
However, probably the most interesting item on the Hiroshima commemorations to emerge of late in the German press (a press which has been much more focused on the meaning of 1945, perhaps understandably, than the American press in the past several months) is an editorial by Robert S. McKay, an American “old German hand” and a skeptic. His editorial appeared in the Berlin Tagesspiegel on June 30, foregrounding all of these commemorations with the notion that Japanese focus on war victimhood has clouded the country’s ability to honestly assess self-culpability in the wartime past, and criticizing the city of Potsdam for setting up a “Hiroshima Plaza” which coheres completely to the “Japanese as victims” point of view. I’ve been meaning to translate this from the German for more than a month now, but as a concession to time, will link to the article’s original here and the horrible Google-translated version here, hoping that in the near future those German paragraphs will worm their way to the front of my translation queue.
Finally, take note of a new text published by my former northeast Ohio liberal arts college East Asian historian colleague Anne Sherif at Oberlin College, entitled Japan’s Cold War: Media, Literature and the Law (Columbia U. Press, 2009). She writes to great emotional and intellectual effect about Hara Tamiki, the Japanese author who was, as she wrote, “a martyr of the age of fear and the first man to succumb to the full force of the Cold War” (p. 115). Citing Oe Kenzaboro’s Hiroshima Notes, she states that “the bomb does more than give life and take it away” (p. 104), describing A-bomb literature, or genbaku bungaku 原爆文学…
Sherif offers a staggering analysis of some staggering literature by Hara Timiki (原 民喜), his story “Feet of Fire / 火の踵 / Hino kakato.” (There’s another story here involving how I found the full text of this story in spite of what appears to be a misleading footnote, but I’ll spare you.) Hara himself was in the bathtub in Hiroshima when the bomb hit, and atomic fallout pervades his subsequent output. In “Feet of Fire,” Hara arrives upon the idea that he needs to create a “music bomb” which he will drop in order to create the man of the future, the “Glass Man.” The atomic bomb, in other words, calls for new bombs, counter-bombs, artistic aggression. As he walks down the street, Hara’s character’s eyesight and senses pare away and his psyche is shaken deeply by the appearance of the idea of the “music bomb”, whose power itself forces him to create a new persona. In Sherif’s translation, here is the climax of that story:
…Adam….This single name sprang from him, as from divine inspiration…That name came back to him like some kind of salvation.
“So that’s it. It’s Adam — I am putting you in charge of the idea of the music bomb.”
or, in an extract from the original version:
（さうだ、アダム……。音楽爆弾の空想は君にまかせよう。君はあの死体の容積が二三倍に膨脹し、痙攣がいたるところに配列されてゐるシインのなかから、ぽ つかりと夢のやうに現れたイメージだつた。君の名はアダム……だが君の名をいま僕はニユー・アダムと呼びたい。音楽爆弾でも何でもいいから勝手に勝手な空 想をしてくれ給へ。いづれ僕はそいつも小説に書かうと思ふから、これからは時々やつて来てくれ給へ。だが今は僕はかうして街なかを歩いてゐるのだし、日常 生活の姿勢でゐなければ、どうも困るのだ。）