Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's over

One of the wonderful things about Hiroshima by John Hersey is its ending. Actually, both its endings.

Hersey's 1946 book about the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 concludes by quoting an essay by 10-year-old Toshio Nakamura, who survived the attack that killed something like 100,000 people.

The next day Toshio and two friends went looking for their mothers.

"But Kikuki's mother was wounded and Murakami's mother, alas, was dead."

Try forgetting that line, or the story that it wraps up.

Forty years later Hersey published a new chapter following up on the lives of the six people he originally interviewed.

It closes by reporting on Kiyoshi Tanimoto, who is over 70.

"He was slowing down a bit. His memory, like the world's, was getting spotty."

Three words, "like the world's," move the story back into its historical context and into our lives.

The book is over but the story isn't.