Monday, August 17, 2009

Donald Ritchie's review of John Hersey's Hiroshima

Donald Ritchie has another trenchant review in the Japan Times––this time of a sixty-three-year-old book, John Hersey's Hiroshima, republished this year by Penguin.

Ritchie––who lived in Japan at the time––recounts his reading of Hersey's book which exploded the Occupation's censorship of news coming out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
In 1946, just after the first anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima, "The New Yorker" magazine's Aug. 31 issue published the complete text of John Hersey's portrait of the atom bomb and its effects on the Japanese city.

At the end of the war, in 1945, Hersey was in Japan writing about the reconstruction of the devastated country when he happened across an account written by a Jesuit priest who had survived the Hiroshima destruction. It was he who introduced the reporter to other survivors...

I certainly remember my experience, reading it in a battered (and forbidden) copy of "The New Yorker." The magazine had been discouraged by the occupation authorities but a copy or two still circulated, samizdat-style, when I read it in Tokyo in January 1947. The experience was direct; the plainness of the style and the horror of the account both moved and shocked...
(For more on the censorship of news on the atomic bombings, see Greg Mitchell's "For 64th Anniversary: The Great Hiroshima Cover-Up -- And the Nuclear Fallout for All of Us Today")

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