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out. I got sick. I no longer count. Kitani . . . I thought that you had been
bought by Lieutenant Nakabori. That was why I let you be brought up before
the court-martial. When I realized the truth, it was too late.17 In Zone of Emptiness Noma, a leftist writer from prewar days and himself
a veteran of the army, attempts once and for all to demolish the most
sacred sustaining myths of emperor worship and the kokutai ideology.
A third book of major importance that deals with the war is Ibuse
Masuji’s Black Rain (Kuroi Ame), an account of the dropping of the
atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Based on actual records of the material destruction and human agony caused by the bomb, Black Rain is the story
of many people, but especially of Shigematsu and his niece Yasuko. In a
narrative consisting largely of diary accounts of Shigematsu and others,
we meet the inhabitants of Hiroshima and its environs on the day of
the bomb, observe their fate with horror at the moment of the bomb’s
detonation, and then join the survivors as they wander in bewilderment
through the nightmarish labyrinth of a devastated city. The present of
the novel is set several years after the war’s end, and the tale of the bomb
and its aftermath is recounted by Shigematsu essentially in the wish to
set the record straight about Yasuko who, because of her exposure to the
bomb’s radiation, is unable to find a husband. In fact, Yasuko is seriously
ill with radiation sickness, and the description of her suffering once the
symptoms of the sickness become manifest is heartrending.
The semidocumentary material contained in this long book could
easily have been presented in an exploitative and sensationalistic way; but
the author has exercised considerable artistic restraint, and has thereby
fashioned Black Rain into a devastatingly effective indictment of the evil
futility of war. It should not be supposed, however, that Black Rain is all
darkness and grief. There runs through it the theme, although it is sometimes only dimly perceivable, of hope and the will to survive. This is made
symbolically explicit at the end when, as others listen indoors to the...
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- Spring '13