In ōta yōko's (1903?–63) novel Han-ningen (Half-Human, 1954) the heroine, named Oda Atsuko, is like author Ōta herself a famous A-bomb writer suffering from severe depression. She enters the hospital in an attempt to cure an addiction to tranquilizers whose intemperate use derives from very real, but to the medical profession opaque, neuroses ultimately due to the trauma of Hiroshima. No treatment proves totally effective. Medicine can only hope to counter illness, not history, and Oda's deepest torments remain chronic. She continues to be plagued by a frustration linked in the novel's fifth chapter with the choices she has faced in the seven years since the end of the Second World War: suicide, flight, or the writing of a “good work of literature.” Throughout the novel Oda dismisses suicide as not in her nature; Ota, in her essay “Ikinokori no shinri” (The psychology of survival, 1952), concludes that no Japanese writer can abandon Japan, and her heroine here concurs. Of Oda's three alternatives all that is left is the writing of a good work, but that too seems elusive. What constitutes “good” is unclear. Just how she might recognize such a work (ii sakuhin to wa nanimono ka) is a literary problem inextricably bound with Oda's physical and psychological problems, and all have arisen from her presence at Hiroshima's destruction on August 6, 1945.

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