One hears the word and wants to know more, but one also wants to forget it. One has heard both too much and not enough about Hiroshima. For the city evokes our entire nuclear nightmare, and any study of it must begin with this symbolic evocation.
Its literal meaning, "broad island," suggests little more than the city's relationship to rivers and to the sea. Does one care about the literal meaning of Carthage, Troy, Sparta, Ch'ang An, Lidice, or Coventry? What Hiroshima does convey to us--indeed press upon us--is the realization that it actually happened and the implication that it could happen again. The mythological metaphors usually employed to suggest this idea--the genie let out of the bottle or Pandora's box opened--do not seem adequate for the phenomenon. That of man threatened by his Frankenstein comes closer, but this more recent myth, though technologically based, humanizes and keeps finite its monster. We need new myths to grasp our relationship to the cool, ahuman, completely technological deity which began its destructive reign with Hiroshima.
It has often been pointed out that statistics of the power of the blast, or even of the number of people killed in Hiroshima, convey no sense of the brutalized human being, because "statistics don't bleed." The