Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear war is a non-fiction book written by interpreter Susan Southard who was inspired to write this book after meeting 57 year old Taniguchi Sumiteru, a survivor of the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki. In 1945 he was a 16 year old, blasted off his bicycle a mile from the epicentre of the explosion, 5 months later he was still in hospital his back still raw and red from the intense heat from the bomb, he lay on his stomach for the next 4 years before his body healed itself enough for him to move.
Approximately 200 000 people died from the bomb and radiation exposure and long-term after affects. This book tells primarily of the stories of 5 survivors and the 70 year impact of the nuclear bomb on families and their community. Bomb survivors were given their own name Hibakusha which meant – atomic bomb affected people.
Most people today know about the atomic bombs, but few still know and understand the full horrors. Brave Hibakusha campaigned to tell the world and fight for peace.
First a little history about Nagasaki. Between the 1500’s and the 1800’s Nagasaki on the SW tip of Japan was a prime trading post with European, Chinese and Asian travellers. Post WW1 Japan emerged as Asia’s world leader. In 1926 Japan’s new emperor, Hirochito’s policies were military lead as they strove to become all powerful. They began to invade other countries seeking natural resources to support their power hungry leaders. Western embargo’s fuelled the anger of the leaders, the country was blanketed in a whitewash propaganda campaign against the world as leaders took on the US head on and attacked Pearl Harbour and many SE Asia colonies. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki being the point when most of us recall our school history lessons.
The reality of the devastation caused at 11.02 on August 9th 1945 for the people of Nagasaki was incomprehensible, the bomb blast and the heat flattened the city, fried the people, left thousands homeless, injured and without hope. The mushroom cloud plunged the area into darkness, followed by radioactive rainfall. The people didn’t know what a nuclear bomb was, no-one understood it’s effects, or how to treat the injured. Even after the Japanese surrendered, there was very little aid. A widespread communication shut-down was in force over reporters and media, everything became classified and locked away for years as the world was kept ignorant of the plight of these people. Thousands died of their injuries on the day and later radiation sickness and related illnesses.
It took at least 4 years before Nagasaki could say it turned a corner as starvation eased and systems of political, social and economic reform were set up. It wasn’t until 1951 and The Treaty of Peace with Japan that censorship was lifted. 60 books and articles were published about the bombings and the hibakusha were encouraged to talk about their experiences as a form of psychological trauma healing. They went on to campaign for the abolition of atomic weapons and to educate the new generations against forgetting about the past and always striving for peace.
This is a very powerful book, extremely sad and will stay with me for years to come. It is a piece of history which the people of the world need to read to prevent it ever happening again.
This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author via Souvenir Publishing.
View all my reviews on Goodreads