Picks and Pans Review: A Place Called Hiroshima

UPDATED 08/26/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/26/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Betty Jean Lifton and Eikoh Hosoe

Obviously few events in human history have been as dramatic as the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. That is why it is so annoying to read the melodramatic text of this volume, over-written by Lifton, a prolific author of books for and about children (and the wife of New York psychologist-author Robert Lifton): "You join a Die-In at the Atomic Dome. You lie where the victims fell—blinded, burned, pulverized. The heat of the sun is relentless. It scorches the paving stones. It sears into your very being." Such ostentatious writing only trivializes its subject, which is exactly what this book's photographs, by the Japanese-born Hosoe, do not do. His images of modern life in Hiroshima are juxtaposed with historic photos and drawings; Hosoe's everyday scenes, as well as shots of survivors and the few ruins left by the bomb, are powerful, personalized evocations of the effects of such terrible weapons. It is troubling that this book virtually ignores the historic context of the event—it's as if World War II never happened and the Japanese were minding their own business when someone dropped this devastation on them. But in their graphic depiction of what nuclear war really means, the photographs in this book combine to form a powerful document. (Kodansha, $18.95)

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