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  • Reexamining the Fear of the A-Bomb and the Imagination of PremonitionReporting and Recollection in the Works of Tamiki Hara
  • Gen Nogami (bio)

1. Introduction: A Reexamination of the Imagination of Premonition

Tamiki Hara is one of the authors who opened the door to the genre of atomic bomb literature by transforming their A-bomb experiences in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, into literature. His career as a writer began in the 1930s, but the Summer Flowers trilogy, the subject of this article, and the works that followed it are by far his most famous ones. In this respect, the A-bomb experience triggered a second life as a writer.

As many critics have commented, Hara's descriptions of the fierce conditions immediately after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima have a unique rhythm and beauty; they are concise but also sensitive. Brevity and sensitivity, however, are by no means readily compatible. His writing conveys the spectacle in a dispassionate way with few depictions of emotion. The phrase "unbearable resentment against this absurdity"1 appears in Summer Flowers, the first part of the trilogy, but this is almost the only place where the I-narrator lays bare his emotions. Abruptly introduced, the phrase makes us aware of the anger concealed in the undercurrents running through the whole story.

Atomic bomb literature is an odd name for a genre. The name of a weapon tacked onto a literary genre: When is such a thing made feasible? We need to start by examining this point.

Machine gun literature sounds improbable, but trench literature does [End Page 37] exist. The literature as medium records the scars left on the human psyche by new war technologies. The latest technologies are always brought to the battlefield, and literature is viewed as necessary each time human beings are diminished or have their dignity compromised. Literature functions as a report from the battlefield about situations where human nature is exposed. But the recovery of humanity was not the only function of atomic bomb literature. At first, atomic bomb literature was required to report from the battlefields (the air raids suddenly turned familiar places into battlefields). It was no different from trench literature in the sense that it depicted the vivid scenes that played over and over again in the writers' minds.

Atomic bomb literature is different in the sense that it is also required to imagine the future. In short, atomic bomb literature is not the memory of the past that shadows us even as we try to forget. On the contrary, it is conditioned by an imagination that projects into the future, that is, by premonition. Kenzaburō Ōe terms this the imagination of premonition, noting that it is a shared sensitivity among those of us who live in the Cold War era.2

The possibility of all-out nuclear war, that is, nuclear weapons mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles constantly aimed at our daily existence, has made the A-bomb experience a thing of the past, yet, it is also a future that must never happen. Ōe views the universality of atomic bomb literature as one possibility for contemporary literature, and he greatly admires the works of Tamiki Hara as representative of such literature.

To put it differently, as a kind of status report, atomic bomb literature yields basic information for the equilibrium and deterrence theory, the so-called balance of terror, to operate. According to this theory, functioning as a doctrine, confrontation can continue without using weaponry even once if both parties possess large quantities of nuclear weapons capable of mutual destruction many times over. For something so absurd to be possible, it is necessary for both parties to desist from reckless preemptive strikes. Therefore, it is an absolute requirement to show (not conceal) the quantity and quality of the nuclear weapons that both parties possess and to demonstrate a strong determination to retaliate. But, above all, the most important premise is that both parties share the same foreknowledge of the tragic outcomes for people when nuclear weapons explode. [End Page 38]

Game theory, which provides the premise for the equilibrium and deterrence theory, is based on reasonable inference and seeks to share foreknowledge...


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pp. 37-56
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