Friday, August 6, 2010



Here's a clip from a Japanese animated film adaptation of "Barefoot Gen," a 1970s series of manga comic books by Keiji Nakazawa, about a young boy who survives the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and inspired by the author's own experiences. This clip is animated, but graphic.

Today is the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I'm struck by how some hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, are torn between the great difficulty of describing what they saw and felt, and a strong need to do the same. Some just have to testify. The diminishing group of survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are the only people in the world with first-hand experience of the effects of nuclear war. (I'd say they're distinct from soldiers and civilians who've seen nuclear bomb tests in Nevada or in the Pacific.) The real difficulty of testifying is not, it seems, in coming up with words for the scene itself; many people have described the flash of light when the bomb exploded, or the burned corpses and ruined buildings and the derailed streetcars with bodies all piled up. The problem is that words cannot fully convey the horror they felt -- after all, we as listeners would have had to be there in order to truly grasp it -- or the overwhelming desire they have for this never to happen again. I'm not sure if that's a failure of language, or a failure of imagination.  

Here's a page with some recorded testimonials of hibakusha, with English translations.

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