Sunday, November 28, 2010

John Hersey's Hiroshima

For journalism class we were assigned to read John Hersey’s Hiroshima. I’ve read it before (for a conflict resolution class that I took at the University of Winnipeg) However reading it now, knowing that it was actually written as a form of journalism and not as a piece of non-fiction, it seems to have a different context to me.

Perhaps this is because when I read it before, I never once gave thought to the notion of how hard and how much work would have gone into this piece. What's more, is the fact that Hersey was able to keep a neutral tone throughout the book.

It's hard to stay neutral when writing about emotional issues. Imagine writing about the devistation that happened in Hiroshima after the nuclear bomb was dropped?!


In researching Hersey's article, I discovered that it took him a year to write, and it was inteded as a four part series for the New Yorker Magazine. When he handed it into his editor, it was decided that the article would run one entire edition -- cover to cover -- of the Magazine.

The piece lacks any sort of American viewpoint, however that didn't deter Americans from buying that edition of the New Yorker Magazine; it still sold out within hours of hitting the stands.

The book Hiroshima was published the same year the article came out, 1946. It was updated in 1985, to tell the stories of the six main characters 40-years later.

I can't think of a body of work that I can compare to Hiroshima. Hersey's writing style and view of Hiroshima is written in such a way that it makes room for the reader to form their own opinion without him guiding it. Even in journalism, that is hard to find.

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