The Embers of Hiroshima: From Author to Subject in a Transnational Oral History Collaboration

By Palevsky, Mary | The Oral History Review, Summer-Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

The Embers of Hiroshima: From Author to Subject in a Transnational Oral History Collaboration


Palevsky, Mary, The Oral History Review


Abstract This paper examines an international oral history collaboration involving the "translation" of the American book, Atomic Fragments: A Daughter's Questions, by Mary Palevsky, into the Japanese documentary film, Memories of the Trinity Bomb, directed by Yoshihiko Muraki. The author utilized oral history and personal narrative to chronicle her inquiry into the legacy of the atomic bomb in the lives of its creators. Japanese scholar, Kayoko Yoshida, translated Palevsky's summary of Atomic Fragments into Japanese for Muraki, working with the filmmaker throughout the process. For the film, the author conducted interviews with Manhattan Project scientists and was interviewed in sites of personal and historical significance. This paper explores the methodological challenges underlying three essential features of this transnational project: the transformation of audience, from American to Japanese; the transformation of medium, from book to film; the transformation of identity, from researcher and author of a book to subject of a film.

When I asked Kayoko Yoshida to read, Atomic Fragments: A Daughter's Questions, I was seeking her opinion about translating it into Japanese. (1) My question seemed straightforward:

Did she, a Japanese oral historian, think readers in her country would be interested in a book by the daughter of Manhattan Project scientists about her conversations with the aging scientists who created the atomic bomb? But in fact, translation is never a straightforward act. Our collaboration took my work beyond the boundaries I had anticipated, in ways I could not have envisioned.

Translating the story of Atomic Fragments into the documentary film, Memories of the Trinity Bomb (2) involved three essential changes:

* the transformation of audience--from American to Japanese.

* the transformation of medium--from book to film.

* the transformation of identity--my personal transformation from the author of a book about the memory of the bomb in the lives of its creators, to the subject of a film about this memory.

To explore these developments in more depth, I will open this essay with an overview of Atomic Fragments, and my approach as an oral historian and author, using the medium of writing, to speak to American readers. I will examine my decision to use first person voice in my writing in order to accomplish my goals. Then, I will discuss how this approach formed the basis for transition to a film for which I was the primary narrator, and how I negotiated the challenges of becoming the subject of another creator's oral historical work.

Overview of Atomic Fragments: A Daughter's Questions

My late parents were young scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the top-secret crash program to create the first atomic bomb during World War II. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought the war to a close, my father, Harry Palevsky, vowed to never work on weapons again, and went on to a long career as an experimental nuclear physicist. Like many atomic scientists, he was committed both to his postwar career as a physicist and to the issues surrounding the proper role of the scientist in society--particularly regarding the development and control of nuclear weapons. In 1990, during the final months of my widowed father's life, we recorded his memoirs on audio-tape. Four years later, as a doctoral student in human development, the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the A-bomb in 1995 provided the stimulus for me to broaden my understanding of the moral legacy of the atomic bomb in the lives of its creators.

An in-depth discussion of my research design and methods is beyond the scope of this paper. However, I will review some relevant features of my work. (3) My approach was interdisciplinary, informed by theory and methods in ethnography, oral history, biography, and autobiography. I have conducted interviews with thirty individuals, nineteen of whom worked on the Manhattan Project. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Embers of Hiroshima: From Author to Subject in a Transnational Oral History Collaboration
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.