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Old 01-24-2012, 07:43 AM   #16
WT Sharpe
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Although this is a work of fiction, it's unnerving to know that it was based on the writings of people who were there.

What of that fellow who suffered PTSD? The one who kept running under trucks and planting sticks? I've known folks who suffered from that, but never to that degree.
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Old 01-24-2012, 08:20 AM   #17
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I'm posting this before reading the rest of the reviews, so as to not unduly influence my thinking... I finished it a couple of weeks ago, so my memories of it are not quite as strong as they could be.

As I previously said, this should be mandatory reading for anyone going to war, and particularly for those with their fingers on the button. It is a cautionary tale that reads more like non-fiction than a novel, and whilst it is very bleak in parts, it also manages to relieve that depressing litany of horror with absorbing peeks into the lives of the survivors. One would think that to have lived through something as devastating and life changing as that would make it difficult to function normally any more. Truly life must go on.

The early stages of Black Rain felt very much like a modern post-apocalyptic novel, and I suppose to those in and around Hiroshima at the time, that's exactly what it was.

A fascinating (for me) insight into Japanese life at the time, and into their psyche. The concepts of honour and duty go far beyond those of most modern-day Western societies. For example, I was surprised by the way the workers felt that they still needed to report for work, and do their utmost to keep the companies running, after such an apocalyptic event. But then maybe hindsight makes that seem stranger than it was to them at the time.

I did find some of the unremitting descriptions of the dead and disfigured almost too much to take at times, possibly because it felt like it was a recounting of actual experience rather than a fictional account. And it did make me angry at times - how could any human being visit this destruction upon another? Once again, hindsight is a fine thing, and I'm sure at the time it seemed like a necessity, though I'm not sure bombing Nagasaki as well can be quite as easily explained away.

As an aside, I had to buy this as a paperback, as I couldn't get the eBook, and I must say it was a pleasant experience. The "nearly new" book I received was pristine (I doubt it has ever been read), was actually printed in Japan, and came with a dust jacket - unusual for a pb here in the UK at least.

So, not a book I'm going to be in a hurry to revisit, but certainly a reading challenge I am glad I took part in. Thanks to whoever first nominated it (can't remember right now), and I look forward eagerly to the next.
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Old 01-24-2012, 02:13 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
Although this is a work of fiction, it's unnerving to know that it was based on the writings of people who were there.

What of that fellow who suffered PTSD? The one who kept running under trucks and planting sticks? I've known folks who suffered from that, but never to that degree.
Yes, that veteran of WWII was not at all mentioned in Black Rain (the novel). I am not sure if the character came from one of Ibuse's other novels (Lieutenant Lookeast maybe?) or not. That was just a guess. In the film I really liked the scene where he tells Yasuko of the traumatic experience that led to his behavior and how they connect on the level of two people forever damaged by the war.


One thing I found chilling, and fortunately it never came to pass, is in the film where Shigematsu is listening to a broadcast about the in progress war in Korea and hears that the US led allied powers are discussing whether the use of the atomic bomb may prove necessary. I know from actual history that this is not fiction.

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Old 01-24-2012, 02:20 PM   #19
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I'm posting this before reading the rest of the reviews, so as to not unduly influence my thinking... I finished it a couple of weeks ago, so my memories of it are not quite as strong as they could be.

As I previously said, this should be mandatory reading for anyone going to war, and particularly for those with their fingers on the button. It is a cautionary tale that reads more like non-fiction than a novel, and whilst it is very bleak in parts, it also manages to relieve that depressing litany of horror with absorbing peeks into the lives of the survivors. One would think that to have lived through something as devastating and life changing as that would make it difficult to function normally any more. Truly life must go on.

The early stages of Black Rain felt very much like a modern post-apocalyptic novel, and I suppose to those in and around Hiroshima at the time, that's exactly what it was.

A fascinating (for me) insight into Japanese life at the time, and into their psyche. The concepts of honour and duty go far beyond those of most modern-day Western societies. For example, I was surprised by the way the workers felt that they still needed to report for work, and do their utmost to keep the companies running, after such an apocalyptic event. But then maybe hindsight makes that seem stranger than it was to them at the time.

I did find some of the unremitting descriptions of the dead and disfigured almost too much to take at times, possibly because it felt like it was a recounting of actual experience rather than a fictional account. And it did make me angry at times - how could any human being visit this destruction upon another? Once again, hindsight is a fine thing, and I'm sure at the time it seemed like a necessity, though I'm not sure bombing Nagasaki as well can be quite as easily explained away.

As an aside, I had to buy this as a paperback, as I couldn't get the eBook, and I must say it was a pleasant experience. The "nearly new" book I received was pristine (I doubt it has ever been read), was actually printed in Japan, and came with a dust jacket - unusual for a pb here in the UK at least.

So, not a book I'm going to be in a hurry to revisit, but certainly a reading challenge I am glad I took part in. Thanks to whoever first nominated it (can't remember right now), and I look forward eagerly to the next.
Yes, I really liked how Shigematsu and his family are portrayed as just decent people that are just trying to live their lives and do the right thing. That he blames neither side, just the folly of war and the inhumane measures that it entails.

I always look for, in a novel, an ending that really sums things up and captures the novel. I think the ending here did that:

Quote:
The transcription of the “Journal of the Bombing” was finished. Nothing remained but to read it over and give it a cardboard cover.

The following afternoon, Shigematsu went to inspect the hatchery ponds. The aiko were coming along well, and in a shallow corner of the larger pond some water weed was growing. Shōkichi had probably planted it there; he must have got it from the Benten pond at Shiroyama. Its oval, shiny green leaves dotted the surface of the water, and from their midst rose a slender stalk on which a small, dark purple flower was in bloom.

Shigematsu looked up. “If a rainbow appears over those hills now, a miracle will happen,” he prophesied to himself. “Let a rainbow appear—not a white one, but one of many hues—and Yasuko will be cured.”

So he told himself, with his eyes on the nearby hills, though he knew all the while it could never come true.
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Old 01-24-2012, 03:09 PM   #20
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Yes, that veteran of WWII was not at all mentioned in Black Rain (the novel). I am not sure if the character came from one of Ibuse's other novels (Lieutenant Lookeast maybe?) or not. That was just a guess. In the film I really liked the scene where he tells Yasuko of the traumatic experience that led to his behavior and how they connect on the level of two people forever damaged by the war....
I thought for sure that he was. I guess I was confused by that passage on page 240:

Quote:
In due course, Iwatake was posted to an infantry unit, where for fifteen days he received basic infantry training. The main aim seemed to be to master the technique of throwing themselves, holding bombs, in front of enemy tank units in the event of an enemy invasion of Japan proper. Dozens of times a day, they practiced charging dummy tanks made of wood, flinging beneath them bomb-shaped pieces of timber attached to ropes, then throwing themselves flat as rapidly as possible. He discovered later, after he had been posted to the training center, that it was planned to post the “punitive draft” unit to the coastal defense forces, where each would be considered to have done his duty if he disposed of one enemy tank at the cost of his own life.
Iwatake, of course, was the one who had been so seriously burned by the bomb and made that "miraculous" recovery. I knew I remembered something in the book about someone throwing dummy grenades under vehicles.
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Old 01-25-2012, 09:03 AM   #21
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I thought for sure that he was. I guess I was confused by that passage on page 240:

Quote:
In due course, Iwatake was posted to an infantry unit, where for fifteen days he received basic infantry training. The main aim seemed to be to master the technique of throwing themselves, holding bombs, in front of enemy tank units in the event of an enemy invasion of Japan proper. Dozens of times a day, they practiced charging dummy tanks made of wood, flinging beneath them bomb-shaped pieces of timber attached to ropes, then throwing themselves flat as rapidly as possible. He discovered later, after he had been posted to the training center, that it was planned to post the “punitive draft” unit to the coastal defense forces, where each would be considered to have done his duty if he disposed of one enemy tank at the cost of his own life.
Iwatake, of course, was the one who had been so seriously burned by the bomb and made that "miraculous" recovery. I knew I remembered something in the book about someone throwing dummy grenades under vehicles.
Ah, I had forgotten that. I believe that you are probably correct. The character of Iwatake in the book was expanded and modified to produce that character in the film.
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Old 01-25-2012, 09:21 AM   #22
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Yes, the film definitely took poetic license with that behavior.
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Old 01-25-2012, 12:12 PM   #23
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So the main characters in Black Rain (the book) were actual people, correct? Did Yasuko survive the radiation sickness/poisoning?
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Old 01-25-2012, 12:49 PM   #24
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So the main characters in Black Rain (the book) were actual people, correct? Did Yasuko survive the radiation sickness/poisoning?
From the final paragraph it doesn't sound like it.
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Old 01-25-2012, 01:25 PM   #25
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From the final paragraph it doesn't sound like it.
I got the same impression.
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Old 01-25-2012, 01:34 PM   #26
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So the main characters in Black Rain (the book) were actual people, correct? Did Yasuko survive the radiation sickness/poisoning?
I'm not sure if they were or not, but the journals in the novel were at least based on the journals of actual survivors.

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Old 01-25-2012, 04:12 PM   #27
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I guess I was expecting Yasuko to pull through. There was another character that appeared to have much more contact with radiation and miraculously pulled through, so I thought that Yasuko had a chance.

The thing (for me) about reading a book like this is that it tells me how startling little I know (or have forgotten) about the subject.

Much of the narrative of them walking about reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
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Old 01-25-2012, 05:20 PM   #28
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I guess I was expecting Yasuko to pull through. There was another character that appeared to have much more contact with radiation and miraculously pulled through, so I thought that Yasuko had a chance.

The thing (for me) about reading a book like this is that it tells me how startling little I know (or have forgotten) about the subject.

Much of the narrative of them walking about reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Yasuko was covered in Black Rain which was nuclear fallout. In the book it was narrated that they thought it was harmless at the time but alas it is quite poisonous. Probably the reason for the title.

Haven't heard of The Road.
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:40 PM   #29
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For me, the best thing about this book is that I’m done with it. And I can check off a square in my 2012 personal reading challenge….

With due respect to the subject matter, I did not care for it at all as a novel. The writing is, for the most part, terribly stilted. The dialogue, in particular, is just unbearable. Whether that is the original or the translation, I don’t know; so the result on the page is all I have to go by. There is maybe 20-50 pages of material that is stretched into 300, numbingly repetitive -- just like Shigematsu’s endless trudges from one town to the other and back and forth and on and on.
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Old 01-27-2012, 04:34 AM   #30
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While I agree the writing was (for lack of better word) "stilted", and I too wondered if this was from the translation or if it might be the way it was written.
I suspect the latter , and I find that an interesting part of the book: Reading something that was written in such a different way than what we westerners find "normal".
Writing styles and traditions differ around the world, and it's interesting to read works displaying those differences. Sort of widening my horizons, I guess.
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