Memory For Forgetfulness
August, Beirut, 1982
The vacuum bomb. Hiroshima. Manhunt by jet fighter. Vanquished remains of the Nazi army in Berlin. A flaring up of the personal conflict between Begin and Nebuchadnezzar. Headlines that jumble past with present, urging the present to hurry on. A future sold in a lottery. A Greek fat lying in wait for young heroes. A public history with no owners, open to whoever wishes to inherit. On this day, on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, they are trying out the vacuum bomb on our flesh, and the experiment is successful.
What I remember of Hiroshima is the American attempt to make it forget its name. I know Hiroshima. I was there nine years ago. In one of its squares, it spoke of its memory. Who will remind Hiroshima that Hiroshima was here? The Japanese interpreter asked if I’d seen the famous film, Hiroshima mon amour. I answered, “I can love a woman from Sodom, for love or play. I can love a body whose guards may kill me through the window.””I don’t understand,” she said. “It’s just poetic fancy, ” I said. “But where is Hiroshima?””Hiroshima’s here,” she answered. “You’re in Hiroshima.” “I don’t see it,” I said. “Why did you cover the name of its body with flowers? Is it because the American pilot cried later? He pushed a button, and saw nothing but a cloud. But when he saw photographs later, he cried.” “Such is life, she said. “But American didn’t cry,” I said. “She wasn’t angry with herself. She was angered by the power balance.”
Hiroshima tomorrow. Hiroshima is tomorrow.
There’s nothing in the museum of the crime that points to the name of the killer: “The plane came this way, from a base in the Pacific.” Is this collusion, or is it kowtowing? As for the victims, they need no names. Human skeletons bare of leaves. Branches made of bone, just for the shape. Forms, just for the form. A few locks of hair single out a woman over there. Inscriptions on a wall explain degrees of death-from burns, smoke, poison, or radiation. Preliminary exercises for a more comprehensive global killing. Preparing for the end. Nowadays, the Hiroshima bomb’s destructive power makes it seem primitive nuclear weaponry. Yet it has enabled scientific imagination to write the scenario of the end of the world: an enormous explosion, a gigantic explosion that will resemble the initial formation of the globe with its organised chaos of mountains, wadis, plains, deserts, rivers, seas, slopes, lakes, wrinkles, rocks, all the beautiful variety of an earth glorified in poetic praises and religious ceremonies. After the giant explosion, a great fire will blaze, consuming whatever it can eat-human beings, trees, stones, and other things that can burn-and giving rise to a dense smoke that will blot out the sun for many days until the sky weeps a black rain, which they call nuclear rain, that will poison every living thing. The earth will then cool down and return to the Ice Age. And in the period of rapid transition from this age to the Ice Age nothing will remain alive except rats and certain types of insects. One morning the rats will wake up to find they are human beings who rule the earth. Kafka turned upside down. And I ask: Which is more cruel? That a human being should wake up to find he’s a giant insect, or that an insect should wake up to find it is a human being who plays with an atomic bomb thinking it nothing more than a football?