Nobuko Tsubui at the Annual Lantern Float

Below is the statement that Japanese citizen Nobuko Tsukui delivered at the Lincoln NFP Chapter Annual Lantern Float August 7. Nobuko is a major scholar in the literature written by survivors of the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — people who often died after a few years from radiation sickness. Her most recent book, The Atomic Bomb Literature of Japan: an Introduction and Translations, make clear why it is so important for NFP to work for nuclear arms reductions and for stringent congressional controls on StratCom. The English translations in the volume are painful and powerful, but they are also a tribute to humankind's search for meaning. The Atomic Bomb Literature of Japan is available from Nebraskans for Peace for $25.  

--Paul Olson
, NFP President 

Dear Friends, 

I’m honored to be here to greet you tonight.

Lincoln is a very important place in my life. It is here at the University of Nebraska that I received the foundation for what I am now.  Forty-nine years ago, in September 1961, I arrived here to begin my graduate study.  

But I’m not here tonight to talk about myself.  

You and I gather here, to remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and further, to reflect on the atrocities committed by humankind all over the world; and to reaffirm the dignity and power of the individual human will.

For the past thirty years, since 1980, I have been involved with genbaku bungaku, the atomic bomb literature of Japan.  It is not a popular genre. It forces us to face where we are as a civilization. To read this body of literature is to grow in awareness that the problems humankind faces in the nuclear age concern all of us and all life on the planet. Atomic bomb literature helps its reader to perceive that nuclear war is the worst human act, the crime of violating human integrity. And I believe it will compel us to strive for peace, so as to prevent the annihilation of the human race by our own hands. 

(In April of this year, my book, The Atomic Bomb Literature of Japan: An Introduction and Translations, was published. The book is a result of my personal journey to try to understand the atomic bomb and what people did with the suffering that arose from it. It comes out of my interest in how they imposed form on nuclear chaos. It emerges from my concern that the witnesses that we have to the first nuclear cataclysm are being ignored.)

Few would disagree that most literary forms have dubious origins: the Gothic novel, the American Western, and so on. One literary form’s origin, however, can be dated to the day and hour:  the atomic bomb literature of Japan. It begins in August 1945 at the moment when a writer (or potential writer) recovers sufficient awareness after the bomb to tell herself or himself, “I am alive.  I must write.” Quite naturally, the predominant subject matter of early genbaku bungaku, written primarily by the hibakusha or survivors of the atomic bomb, was their direct experience of atomic bombing in the two cities in August 1945.  However, subsequent atomic bomb literature, written by both hibakusha and non-hibakusha writers, deals with a wider range of subjects, as the genre has moved from a recording of the direct, personal experience of atomic bomb victims to encompass the entire world, to deal with the conditions of human beings living on this planet earth.

In other words, atomic bomb literature has become the singular literature of the nuclear age. It concerns itself with the future, if any, of humankind, and warns of its possible annihilation as long as nuclear arms remain on this planet.  

In atomic bomb literature, we find, instead of hopeless acquiescence, a striving to communicate.  By its determination to be heard, this message from the dead and those about to die affirms some kind of hope –– however frail, however contingent –– for a new spirit of understanding, and even for the continuing existence of humankind on this planet. What atomic bomb literature can tell human beings is not, after all, the catalogue of horrors, but the ways individual human beings have met these horrors. Only by learning to see life through the eyes of people other than ourselves, can we escape the cumulative poison of our own selfishness. Herein lies the four-fold value of those literatures born out of ultimate catastrophe: as history, as art, as an admonition against self-destruction, and as an inspiration to work for peace. 

--Nobuko Tsukui

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November 16th 2010

Michael Gendler - We ought to take care to appreciate the horror of war that can come from aggression by those carrying swords, knives, clubs, and hatchets. Heaven help us if we got rid of our nuclear weapons. At that point we become increasingly hostage to those nations with a greater population combined with an aggressive leadership. Sadly, but in truth, our nukes, at this stage in history, are peacekeepers.