Books for the News, Commentary, History, Literature

Writing Hiroshima’s Ground Zero

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Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso both spoke today at the city’s annual August 6 ceremony, held to mark the anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack, which on this day in 1945 decimated Hiroshima and killed or fatally harmed 140,000 people. In today’s Daily Telegraph, columnist Kate Day compares the event to past August Sixths with a series of striking photographs that reflect the way the city has incorporated its tragic past into its modern landscape.
John Whittier Treat’s Writing Ground Zero delves deep into that process, recounting controversial history of Japanese public discourse around Hiroshima and Nagasaki—a discourse alternatively celebrated and censored—from August 6, 1945, to the present day.
The first complete study of the nuclear theme in Japan’s intellectual and artistic life, Writing Ground Zero covers works from the earliest survivor writers, including Hara Tamiki and Ota Yoko, as well as such intellectuals as Oe Kenzaburo and Oda Makoto. Outlining the Japanese contribution to ongoing international debates on ethics and history, it adds a rich context to Prime Minister Taro Aso’s hope that, as he put it today, “Japan will … lead the international community toward the abolishment of nuclear weapons and lasting peace.”