Sometimes the only thing to do when life is getting you down is to take refuge in books. To read. To learn. To force the brain cells to contemplate something else, often something worse than you’re going through. If only to get perspective.
And so came John Hersey’s Hiroshima. And believe me, mentally walking through the aftermath of an atomic bomb is a surprisingly effective perspective maker.
Written one year after the bomb was dropped, Hersey follows the experiences of six survivors. And then returns to them all 40 years later. To see if they’re still surviving.
This is not just a fascinating account of one of history’s world-changing events. But it’s compelling reading. Devastating, frightening, shocking. On so many levels. There’s nothing sordid or invasive here. And it’s certainly not sentimental.
These are real people, real lives. Each tale adds to the next. Indeed, the humanity in such inhumanity makes the whole real. Makes the statistics real. Make the suffering and the death tolls mean something. They bring the atrocities of dropping an atomic bomb to life. And serve as a testimony to the resilience of human beings.
I came across this book through a course in speed reading. Would you believe. A course which I didn’t enjoy, I hasten to add. All the more so because the flash of text from this book made me want to read more. And slowly. Which of course was not the point.
To me, it's the kind of book that could be used really effectively to teach people about Hiroshima and its aftermath. To really help young and old capture the horror of the final days of the war. To move teenagers to understand why we seemingly incessantly point back to these world wars as so significant and shocking.
My anniversary is indeed painful. But very personal to me and my family. The anniversary of Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) should be painful to us all.