Hiroshima: Synopsis, Ideas, and Writing Connections

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Hiroshima follows the lives of six Japanese who survived the 1945 atomic bombing of the city that became the title of the book. The initial four chapters of the nonfiction book were written in 1946. An additional chapter was added in 1985, briefly recounting each character's previous four decades.

Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk, had just sat down in her office when the bomb struck. For many hours she lay buried beneath a pile of books. Her leg was crushed. Finally, she was dragged out and left under a lean-to for days. When at last she was treated, her leg healed improperly and, despite several operations, she walked with a limp. Her fiance abandoned her and she eventually became a nun, administering group homes.

Dr. Masakazu Fujii, a wealthy physician, watched his house tumble into a river; he was trapped in tree branches while wearing only his underwear. After struggling free, he escaped to a friend's house in the north. Years later he drowned himself in alcohol and luxury. He died after spending nine years in a coma brought on by a suicide attempt.

Hatsuyo Nakamura, a widowed seamstress, was caught in her home's rubble with her children, but managed to free them and escape to a relative's home. Impoverished, she suffered many years with radiation sickness, finally finding a job that accommodated her handicaps. She retired in 1966, moving into a pleasant old age.

Jesuit Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, later called Father Takakura, was reading in his room when the bomb struck. He lost consciousness and later found himself wandering aimlessly through the home's gardens. Dedicated to service, Father Kleinsorge spent the next few weeks tirelessly ministering to the bomb victims. Despite his debilitating radiation illnesses, he continued similar ministry until his death in 1977.

Dr. Terufumi Sasaki was working in a Hiroshima hospital on August 6, 1945. One of the only surviving medics in the area, he spent the next three days treating thousands of patients with barely any supplies. He became a very wealthy physician in later years, only lightly affected physically by the bomb, but haunted by the mass cremations of unidentified bomb victims in the days following the blast.

Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, also barely affected physically, ministered to bomb victims immediately after the explosion, and spent the following decades lobbying for peace and the treatment of the disfigured.

The responses of each hibakusha – bomb survivor – vary greatly and their lives curiously intertwine.

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