Not much is more startling to read than a paragraph beginning

“At about noon on the day Hiroshima was bombed I went for a walk … “

There are many such sentence surprises in The Crazy Iris, and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath a nine-story volume of Japanese writing on the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 1945, and the decades following.  Edited with a short introduction in 1985, by Kenzaburō Ōe, one the best known of the eight writers, it is a sad, even wrenching, read. Of course; but a necessary one.  Published on the 40th anniversary year it is a small counter the often exciting, valorous accounts of men who make the wars.

With the express purpose not only of telling sad and even wrenching stories but “of highly significant vehicles for thinking about the contemporary world over which hangs the awesome threat of vastly expanded nuclear arsenals.”

The opening story, using a flower as a symbol of how transitory life is, will likely be the least compelling to western readers, for whom the delicacy and familiarity of the image, deployed here in the most indelicate of deaths, will not resonate as strongly.

“The Crazy Iris,” by Masuji Ibuse (author of the novel Black Rain on which the film of the same name is based) begins,

“Shortly after Hiroshima was bombed, I was at a friend’s house … looking at an iris which had  flowered out of season…” Continue reading »

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