Friday, 2 January 2015

Hiroshima by John Hersey

"What has kept the world safe from the bomb since 1945 has not been deterrence, in the sense of fear of specific weapons, so much as it's been memory. The memory of what happened at Hiroshima." - John Hersey

Hiroshima by John Hersey is simply summarized as the story of the atomic bomb survivors. Hiroshima follows the story of six of the survivors and the impact of the bomb on their lives. Hersey uses a style of New Journalism - using fiction writing techniques to recount true stories. This allows for readers to really understand the horrific consequences of war and of the nuclear bomb; while the book is non-fiction it focuses on the stories of ordinary people instead of data and statistic.

There is not much to add to this review, it is simply a truly poignant account of ordinary people affected by the decisions of power hungry governments. The book is a fantastic way to gather information on the context and impacts of the bomb. Hiroshima is sad and it's tragic, but it's real life. I (hopefully) will never understand the full effect of the bomb, but this book was able to open my previously ignorant eyes. I had always thought of the atomic bomb as being a completely horrible and unnecessary weapon, but it wasn't until I connected with the characters Hiroshima and saw their struggles that I realized the meaning that horrible and tragic can really take. I knew the facts on what the bomb is capable of, of the number of casualties, their mutations, the amount of town and buildings ruined, but no teacher had been able to pass on the impact of the bomb as clearly and as moving.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

“A man who aspires to rise above the mediocre, to be something more than the ordinary, surely deserves admiration, even if he fails and loses a fortune on account of his ambitions . . . if one has failed only where others have not had the courage or will to try . . .  to be gained from his observation when looking back over one's life."

Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World, follows the story of Masuji Ono, a propagandist artist for Japan Imperialism during the war. Following Japan’s defeat in the war, Ono becomes a discredited figure; his daughter, evermore influenced by her husband, criticizes her father for his past. To make it worst, Ono’s wife and son were killed and his youngest daughter was in her mid 20s and having trouble finding a husband. Ishiguro manages to provide a peek into post-war Japan and how the paradigms were shifting. The old tradition and ideas had to adapt to the new way of life, one that closely followed the USA. Ono is caught between worlds; he is ‘an artist of the floating world’.

This story is short, flowing and presents an interesting view, there is no reason why anybody shouldn't take a few hours (or less) to read Ishiguro’s, ‘An Artist of the Floating World’. The whole story is told in Ono’s point of view, I found this quite different as many novels don’t place an old retired man as the protagonist of the book. However, I found this technique captured perfectly the hypocritical state and the imbalanced state that Japan was left during the war. Ono had been considered a very patriotic Japanese. Now, he still had pride, he did what he believed was right and he was a well-known artists, however, he being forced to change his views and his whole history in order to be a ‘loyal’ Japanese. Ono’s mind quite often strayed and spoke about different ideas, but I think that he was, inherent to Japanese culture, very structured and the novel never became a stream of consciousness. At times, I did get lost as there were so many names and so many really similar names – I found it more confusing when Ono’s story would stray for five pages and he would suddenly remind himself to get back to the story. However, this way we are taken into the mind of the retired man, he has a lot of time to reminisce and he lives in a very tranquil state of mind even with everything going around him.