H: A Hiroshima Novel (Japan's Modern Writers)

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9784770019479: H: A Hiroshima Novel (Japan's Modern Writers)
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In his debut in English. novelist and internationally known activist Makoto Oda offers us one of the most profound and timely works of imaginative fiction to emerge from postwar Japan. Within its impressionistic framework exists a universe of people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds--American Indians, whites, blacks, Japanese, Koreans--all affected by the desecration of social order and the environment symbolized by the first atomic bomb.

The novel takes place against a constantly changing canvas of time and place. It begins in and around a small Southwestern town in the 1940s, when an Indian tribe is thrown off sacred tribal land because of a secret government project. Later the scene shifts to the war zone in the Pacific and to the city of Hiroshima, and then many years later to a surrealistic cancer ward and a stunning, apocalyptic finale.

The book is an eloquent passion play, powerful as only a deeply felt work of art can be, about a torment that transcends people. place, and time, threatening the devastation of family, culture, even the world itself, with only the barest hint of redemption. At the same time, it is a battle cry for all those committed to resist that destruction.

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About the Author:

Makoto Oda was horn in 1932 in Osaka. He graduated from the University of Tokyo, where he majored in classical Greek philosophy and literature, then attended Harvard University on a Fulbright Scholarship. In 1961 he published a book describing his travels around the world on a shoe-string budget, which became the bestseller of the year among Japan's postwar generation. Widely known as the leader of Beheiren (League of Citizens' Movements for Peace in Vietnam) and of other major citizens movements on anti-war and anti-nuclear issues, his numerous essays and full-length novels reflect his activities both in Japan and abroad.

D. H. Whittaker, the translator, was born in New Zealand and has degrees from ICU, Tokyo, and London University. He is the author of Managing of Innovation: A Study of British and Japanese Factories, Small Firms in the Japanese Economy, Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture: What it Means to Take Japan Seriously (with Ronald Dore), and Financial Liberalization and the Asian Crisis (co-editor). He is current a member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Cambridge.

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The desert was an ideal place for running. Joe frequently ran there, earning himself the nickname "the Runner" from the locals. His work sometimes took him over the road that cut through the desert. He would stop the old Ford truck at the top of the gravel slope that he had decided was the center of the desert, climb out, and take in the faint mauve, snowcapped ranges in the distance. He would relieve himself, change from his thick leather boots into a pair of light canvas shoes, and dart out into the desert.

White Sands, as it was known, was a brown wasteland stretching as far as the eye could see. A few scattered patches of dry grass struggled through the hard, crusty earth. Joe had once brought up a shovel from the ranch to test his strength. He managed to break through the crust, but when he took his hands away the shovel dropped disparagingly to the ground as if to taunt him.

It looked as though some gigantic force had thrown an ocean of rocks over a concrete surface. What strength! And who had scattered those rocks? he wondered. He could feel God when he ran. He sometimes borrowed the Ford to go to church on Sunday morning, inviting cracks about his piety from his boss, Will. He actually went there to meet girls, all decked out in their Sunday best, and arranged dates after the service. After all, you could hardly expect to find God in that poky place, nor in the grating sermon of the asthmatic minister. God was much bigger, like the desert. Not soft like the ruffles of the girls' dresses, but hard like the earth. The Indians living on the edge of the desert probably agreed. For Joe the desert was God.

Last summer he had been caught in a violent thunderstorm, and the desert had offered no refuge. As the rain beating against his cheeks turned to hail, he flung himself facedown on the ground. It may have been the electric atmosphere, but Joe's ears resounded with an uncanny ring. His hair stood on end. This is it, he thought. As he lay in a heap on the ground his left hand began moving of its own accord. It nimbly undid his belt and tossed it away with incredible strength, farther than his right hand could have thrown it. As it landed there was a flash. The lightning hit its target--the eagle buckle he had forgotten was on the belt. When he picked it up the beak of the eagle was dented; the rest of the belt was unscorched.

That was not the only time he had felt God in the desert. Sometimes, when not even a bird could be heard, the parched earth seemed to open its mouth to tell him something. He would stop running and strain his ears to catch the slightest sound, but all around was a heavy silence--the silence of antiquity. A flock of wild geese might fly high overhead and he would watch their wings beating furiously, but not a sound reached him. It was like a silent movie. There they were in the clear sky over the desert, and suddenly they would be gone, as if they had fallen from the sky, exhausted. Even with his twenty-twenty eyesight, Joe couldn't see them. Yes, the desert did seem too vast to fly over.

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