John Hersey's immensely moving Hiroshima
is the text often burdened with the explication of the atom bomb's terror. Ibuse's Black Rain
deserves equal exposure to a Western audience. Based on contemporaneous diary and journal entries of the bombing we follow the principal narrator Shigematsu, in the days after the destruction of his home, when the black rain threatened and fell. Unbearably poignant, Shigematsu begins re-writing his journal of the events in the hope of securing an engagement for his niece scarred by radiation sickness. Black Rain
is never mawkish nor melodramatic. Its microscopic view initially seems to fail to ask the larger political and moral questions that surely such an atrocity demands, but a more nuanced understanding soon dawns: these larger questions cannot be asked of any situation if the more prosaic comprehension of ordinary human misery (and its correlative: ordinary human pride) is not in some way investigated. Black Rain
has an awful beauty. It is a testimony to hope and a disavowal of horror. And it is a feat of writing brilliance.