So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Barefoot Gen, Volume Ten: Never Give Up

Barefoot Gen, Volume Ten: Never Give Up by Keiji Nakazawa
The Barefoot Gen series documents the life of young Gen Nakaoka of Hiroshima starting when he is six years old in the summer of 1945 when the USA dropped an atomic bomb on the city. Never Give Up is the tenth and final volume of the series, and is set in Hiroshima in 1953, eight years after the events of the first book. As in previous books, the characters suffer from memories of both the terrors of the war and the horrendous day the atomic bomb destroyed their city and caused their lives to change forever.
Gen and three other orphans of the bomb live together in a small shack and dream of opening their own business making and selling the dresses they now sell as street corner vendors. Gen has also been learning to be an artist while working at a sign shop, and falls in love with his boss's daughter. Yet the long lasting effects of the atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima's bodies and their souls will not let them live in peace. Memories of the horrendous day and its aftereffects continue to fill their minds, as the silent poison of radiation sickness eats away at their bodies.
The anti-war theme that has pervaded this series, starting in the first book with Gen's father and his opposition to the war that the military and the emperor have forced on the nation, is especially visible in this, the last book of the series. In this book the author outlines Japanese war crimes and makes a call for a world without war, especially calling for an end to atomic weapons. The book opens with a short two page introduction called "Gen's Message: A Plea For Nuclear Abolition" written by the translators and editors of Project Gen. It states clearly that "nuclear weapons and nuclear power cannot coexist with life on Earth." This strong pacifist message against war and nuclear power gives the ten volume story of the bomb and its aftermath a structure and a meaning far beyond simple history.


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