“From outside the shelter came children's voices. The shrill squeals brought the excitement of their unseen game into the opaque quiet of Setsuko's world and made her smile. "No war can go on forever. And human beings are the toughest creatures on earth, you know. There's no sense in being in a hurry to die. You MUST LIVE, whatever happens." Shoichi Wakui had squeezed her hand and told her this with an almost violent urgency, though his grasp was weak and his voice halting. Were those the Sugiwaras' children she could hear? The barber had had the presence of mind to rescue his kit when he fled through the flames of his burning shop, and now he was doing a brisk trade, seating his customers on cushions atop piled stones from the foundations. To house his family he'd put a lean-to against the railway embankment, barely enough to keep out the weather, but at least the children were no longer starving. Even in defeat the locally garrisoned soldiers all had some supplies of food, and while waiting to board trains for their hometowns from Yokohama Station they'd sit on the stone seat of the Sugawara Barbershop and have a good shave, leaving the children something to eat as payment.
Setsuko no longer felt the rage that had overwhelmed her at the disbanding ceremony. If they had fought on home ground, one hundred million Japanese sworn to die before they would surrender, those children would have had to die too. Those young lives and spirits would have been extinguished in terror and pain and they wouldn't even have understood why. They have a right to go on living, and the strength to do it, Setsuko thought. For their sakes, if no one else's, I should rejoice that the war ended before an invasion reached the home front. Shoichi Wakui's words came back clearly: "Even when a war is lost, people's lives still go on." And Naomis, in the gray notebook: "Every war comes to an end, and when peace is restored Paris rises like a phoenix." But what about those who'd already died? It was agony to think of those who would not rise: the dead would be left where they fell at the ends of the earth while the living would come home with their knapsacks of clothing and food. Whether they had gone to the front or stayed at home, the people had staked their lives for country and Emperor, and after they had lost, the country and the Emperor were still there. Then what had it all meant? Adrift and floundering in despair, Setsuko slipped back into a restless sleep.”


Shizuko Go, Requiem
tags: japanese
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Requiem Requiem by Shizuko Gō
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