Friday, 21 January 2011

From Trinity to Trinity

In her introduction translator, Eiko Otake,mentions the small number of writings of Hayashi's that have seen translation into English, the appearance of From Trinity to Trinity from independent publisher Station Hill Press is a much valued addition. From Trinity to Trinity charts Hayashi's pilgrimage to the Trinity site in New Mexico, the test site of the first atomic bomb on July 16th 1945, which she made at the end of the last millennium. Eiko Otake also gives a description of how her translation came into fruition and her correspondence with Hayashi, recounting her meetings with the author, and gives a biography of Hayashi and an overview of her major works. Hayashi was born in Nagasaki but raised in Japanese occupied Shanghai, her family was the only Japanese family on her block but was treated as an equal, the sense of viewing things as an outsider would inform her writing as a chronicler, she describes herself as being an 'un-Japanese Japanese'. The family returned to Nagasaki when Kyoko was 14, and she worked in a munitions factory, as the family settled on the edge of the city, Kyoko was the only member of her family exposed to the bomb, being a hibakusha she found not only alienated her from society at large but also within her own family. After the war she suffered from radioactive sickness but fled Nagasaki and married a man twenty years her senior, they had a son, a courageous act as cases of second generation radioactive sickness and abnormal births were becoming known. Hayashi began writing chronicling the lives of hibakusha, The Site of Rituals,also known as The Ritual of Death/Matsuri no ba won the Akutagawa Prize in 1975, in 2005 The Complete works of Hayashi Kyoko/Hayashi Kyoko zenshu were published in eight volumes.

Hayashi first travelled to America in 1985 when her son moved there to work, although wanting to visit the Trinity Site for many years it wasn't until 1999 that she could make her pilgrimage, Hayashi refers to the site as the 'hibakusha's birthplace', the site is only open to the public twice a year. Enroute to Los Alamos, Hayashi and her friend stop at the National Atomic Museum where Hayashi not only examines the exhibits but is also conscious of the other visitors to the museum, Hayashi examines her feelings as she takes in the museum, noticing that her feelings of being a hibakusha welled up in her only after a man sitting near to her gets up and leaves. At one end of the museum hangs a portrait of Oppenheimer, who Hayashi reminds us was once celebrated as a national hero, but who also fell from grace. On the wall also hangs the route map that Boxcar took, taking off from Tinian to Nagasaki, then returning to Okinawa. As Hayashi and her friend drive closer to the base Hayashi reflects on the paintings of Georgia O'Keefe who made the Rockies her home, observing the barrenness of the landscape on the road to Los Alamos, Hayashi notes, 'These stones that fell off the cliffs are the dead of the Mesas', nature and observations of the movements of time are a central aspect to Hayashi writings, informing us of the lives of the hibakusha, many episodes experienced in the book which are set in the present tense provoke memories from the past. As they and the other visitors sign into the site and wander in the still radioactive wilderness Hayashi comes face to face with the memorial set in the wilderness, From Trinity to Trinity ends with poetry from Ito Yasuko.


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