Column: Books published on August 6

by Ken Ishimaru, Editorial Writer

The film “A Boy Called H” will be released this week. Kappa Seno, the author of the book on which the movie is based, wrote the story for his hometown of Kobe, hoping that the tale of a family who managed to rebuild their lives after the war would be an inspiration to Kobe residents after the city was devastated by a powerful earthquake. One sign of this hope can be found in the publisher’s imprint of the book, issued two years after the disaster. It reads: Published on January 17. [January 17 is the anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.]

Dedicated writers are careful even when choosing the date of publication. Some authors have chosen August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Poet Keiko Inokuchi published her first collection of poems in 12 years on August 6. In this anthology, Hi no Moji (Letters of Fire), the poet, who lives in the city of Higashihiroshima, wrote: “All the flowers that bloom in Hiroshima are flames of requiem.”

Ms. Inokuchi said that when she opened a notebook in which writer Tamiki Hara had recorded his observations of the A-bomb aftermath, she was inspired by an image of fire. “Is this heaven’s will that I should survive and tell people what happened?” Mr. Hara wondered.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not the last places that have suffered catastrophe. Now, after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, there is another date for engraving a “new century of nuclear power.” March 11 of this year, the date of the accident, was chosen by a large number of writers as the publication date for their books. One of these new works is Seiko Ito’s Sozo Radio (Imagination Radio), one of the candidates for the Akutagawa Prize.

Publishing books on the anniversaries of the atomic bombings or major earthquakes is similar to inscribing the date of death on gravestones. Future generations might view these dates as starting points from which to begin over again. But if there are no readers of these books, heaven’s will not be fulfilled.

(Originally published on August 6, 2013)