“Never would Kazuo forget the flash of piercing light, which might of have been reflected from the flat of some enormous, polished, naked sword, nor the dull reverberation far away, Do … doo … which as it drew close was transformed into a sharp, painful, and finally screeching Ju … inn that seemed to pierce through his eardrums, and which culminiated in a sound like a thousand thunderclaps, Gwann!, that hurled him into a bottomless abyss. From this derives the Japanese word Pikadon, for pika means lightning and don thunder.” Robert Jungk, Strahlen aus der Asche, (Children of the Ashes: The People of Hiroshima)) 1959. (p.16)
There are several reasons why I chose to read this book which I found down in the basement of my condominium. The basement serves as a dumping ground for unwanted items that the members of the condominium “donate” to the condo and this book fell there after the sudden death of a dear member who had served the condo board rather well. I was surprised to find English written books in a Swedish dominated rack of unwanted books. I picked several but the topic drew my attention. The idea of reading about Hiroshima close to the period time when Little Boy was unleashed certainly proved to also add to pique my curiosity and when I read that the author, Robert Jungk, was Jewish and one imprisoned by the Nazis well, that was just the cherry on top. I suppose the idea of a former nazi war prisoner of Jewish descent writing a book about Hiroshima victims was the final incitement which totally grasped my curiosity. The reading proved to be most delightful, intriguing, full of gold nuggets of important information and a few eye openers regarding the Japanese culture.
I also enjoyed the reading because as the blurb on the Penguin Book example I have says, Robert Jungk is a jounalist historian. He writes with a certain amount of academese format that I enjoy since the eye is moved about between footnotes, asterisks signaling separate explanations in minute subscript and language explanations in italics that just add a delicious tang to it all. There’s an epilogue, a little map of Hiroshima detailing the impact of the bomb, journals read, I mean, the list goes on.
Well into the reading I also discovered a few interesting facts of Japanese immigration to Perú. I had always been intrigued about Japanese immigration to Latin America since I read in the New York Times, that Japanese of Brazilian descent were considered raucous by real Japanese people. But certainly the subject matter at hand was also very enlightening since the very reason the book appeard in my life was the ever thin veil of threat of eminent destruction by superpowers ready to use the button to get people to do as they will. So I read with interest the lives affected by the Pikadon. I was mostly intrigued by professor Shogo Nagaoka. The geologist’s behavior intent on documenting the effects of the pikadon on the ground and rocks was most interesting to read. Other stories of supreme interest of course, how war creates despair and how war despite its cruelty barely scathed the morals and norms of the people nearly sent to the stoneage by the atomic bomb The Enola Grey dropped on them. Institutions and orders were scrambled yet merely dispersed so that order was delegated to the lower forms of organization in society.
There are many ways to read Children of the Ashes: The People of Hiroshima. One from an institutional perspective as well. There is how the US government went about its control of information of the pikadon in Japan after they dropped the bomb on them as well as how japanese institutions began rising from the aftermath and the surrender to US forces.
I suppose that reading books as old as Robert Jungk’s is nowadays rare, so it would seem. This document whether it has readers this day or not is a powerful document that should withstand the test of time and should be required reading.
Children of the Ashes: The People of Hiroshima by Robert Jungk. Original title: Strahlen aus der Asche 1959. Translated by Constantine Fitzgibbon. Published in Pelican Books 1963.