I liked the retro look of this Penguin book yesterday, it seemed vintage and cool. Never judge a book by it’s cover though as it is easily the most horrific book I have ever read.
First published in 1946 it recounts the experience of six eyewitnesses on the day that the first first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima . What follows is hell on earth as far as I can see, human beings suffering or in pain and literally not knowing what has hit them.
In general John Hersey shows little emotion and just tries to tell the story of these survivors without adding too much of his interpretation on events. At one point though when describing the effect of radiation on survivors he writes:-
‘And, as if nature were protecting man against his own ingenuity, the reproductive processes were affected for a time; men became sterile, women had miscarriages, menstruation stopped.’
One thing that caught me of guard was the two of these eyewitnesses (and survivors) where Christian voices, one a German Jesuit and the other a Japanese Methodist minister.
At one stage in the unfolding carnage this Methodist minister, Mr Tanimoto is called to the house of a dying wealthy man in the city, a man who had been anti-Christian and accused Mr Tanimoto of being a spy for the Americans. He goes to help this Mr Tanaka and finds him in a tomb like shelter, his face and arms puffed up, eyes swollen shut, covered in pus and blood, As John Hersey recounts:-
‘Standing at the shelter stairway to get light Mr Tanimoto read loudly from a Japanese-language pocket Bible: ” For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told…”
Mr Tanaka died as Mr Tanimtoto read the psalm’