Book synopsis

Dangerous Memory in Nagasaki: Prayers, Protests and Catholic survivor narratives

On 9th August 1945, the US dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Of the dead, approximately 8500 were Catholic Christians, representing over sixty percent of the community. In this collective biography, nine Catholic survivors share personal and compelling stories about the aftermath of the bomb and their lives since that day.

This book does not only use memory to provide a greater understanding of the destruction of the bombing, but by examining the Catholic community’s interpretation of the A-bomb, it also links their memory to the past experiences of religious persecution, drawing comparisons with the ‘Secret Christian’ groups which survived in the Japanese countryside after the banning of Christianity. Through in-depth interviews, it emerges that the memory of the atomic bomb is viewed through the lens of a community which had experienced suffering and marginalisation for more than 400 years. Furthermore, McClelland argues that their dangerous memory confronts Euro-American-centric narratives of the atomic bombings, while also challenging assumptions around a providential bomb.

Dangerous Memory in Nagasaki presents the voices of Catholics, many of whom have not spoken of their losses within the framework of their faith before. As such, it will be invaluable to students and scholars of Japanese history, religion and war history.


Part 1: Legacy of Survival

1. Fissures

2. Survivors

3. Bodies

Part 2: Reinterpreting the Bomb: Archetype, Monument and Cry

4. Providential Atomic Bomb?

5. A-Bombed Mary

6. Urakami Cathedral: A Fifth Persecution

7. Water! Atomic Cries and Echoes of the Past

Part 3: Memory’s Future

8. Dangerous Hope

9. Lament, Anger and Protest

10. Conclusion

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