Hiroshima Notes contains a collection of essays written by Kenzaburō Ōe between 1963-65, after several visits to the city struck by the atom bomb in August 1945. The essays were initially published separately in the Japanese media. In the seven pieces, Ōe exposes social and political implications and poses the question of Hiroshima's true meaning and legacy, not only for Japan but also for the world as a whole. Ultimately, although the author acknowledges the absurdity of the tragedy of Hiroshima and of its long-term consequences, he also recognizes its crucial impact as a trigger to the restoration of faith in the most authentic human dignity. At the same time, Ōe points out the necessity to resolve all conflicts arising from the dualism forgiving/forgetting not in favor of clearing the guilty private and collective conscience of post-bomb humankind, but to prevent similar devastation to take place in the future.
Hiroshima Notes is a balanced and lucid work and it is actually the only book penned by Kenzaburō Ōe that I could finish without struggling. In the essays, Ōe finds the ideal terrain to give voice to his moral and ethical questioning, without falling prey to his usual morbidly grotesque and often gratuitous excesses.