Ground Zero
Author: Yuichi Seirai
Specifications: ISBN  978-4163254708
284 pages
13.4 x 19.0 cm / 5.4 x 7.6 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2006
Awards: Ito Sei Prize, 2007
Tanizaki Jun'ichiro Prize, 2007
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These six linked stories examine life in Nagasaki six decades after the atomic bomb detonated over the city at 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945. Nagasaki is historically marked not only by that catastrophe but also by the harsh state persecution suffered by its Christian community from the 17th to the 19th century, and the episodes are memorably populated by characters who bear the loss of their loved ones like a cross. One solitary old woman was deprived by the bomb of her entire family and left with horrible wounds in the cheek and leg; another man was miraculously saved from the rubble as a child and grew up adopted, never knowing his real parentage; yet another family has persevered in its Christian faith for three centuries, surviving first persecution and then the bomb, but must now deal with a son's tragic murder of his new bride.

Mitsu (Honey) is told in the voice of 33-year-old Mihoko, who returned to Nagasaki from her job in Tokyo three years earlier to marry a heart surgeon 15 years her senior. Their household is educated, affluent, and seemingly tranquil, but when an old classmate who is now a housewife confesses to an affair with a student, Mihoko is tempted to seek her own adventure with the young employee of a bicycle repair shop. Her married home is close to ground zero, and both in-laws have lost their families to the bomb; on August 9, while her husband is at work and her in-laws are away attending the memorial ceremony for bomb victims, Mihoko welcomes the youth into her house . . .

Through this and other tales Seirai illuminates the fine degrees of separation that exist between people's religious faiths, between their experiences of the bomb, between those who die from illness and those who die of bomb-related causes, and between death and sex, resulting in a milestone work that prefigures the repercussions of the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima.