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Albert Camus on Hiroshima. War journal of 8 August 1945

ALBERT CAMUS (1913-1960)

Translated Saturday 5 September 2015, by Adrian Jordan

By Albert Camus. The world is what it is, that does not say much. We all know this as of yesterday, thanks to the formidable chorus that radio, newspapers and news agencies broadcast on the subject of the atomic bomb.

They told us, effectively, in the midst of a host of enthusiastic commentaries, that any average sized town can be completely leveled by a bomb the size of a football. American, English and French newspapers were flooded with elegant dissertations on the future, the past, the inventors, the cost, the peaceful vocation and the martial effects, the political consequences and even the characteristics of the atomic bomb. We can sum it up in one sentence: mechanical civilisation is about to set upon its ultimate phase of barbarism. A choice must be made, in the near or not too distant future, between collective suicide or the intelligent utilisation of scientific conquests.

In the meantime, it is acceptable to think it somewhat indecent to celebrate like this, such a discovery, which primarily serves to unleash the most formidable destructive rage that man has witnessed in centuries. In a world exposed to unbounded heartrending violence, incapable of any control, indifferent to justice and the simple happiness of humankind; undoubtedly no one - except through ardent idealism - would dream of being astounded that science consecrates itself to organised murder.

Discoveries should be recorded, described for what they are, announced to the world so that humankind would have a real idea of its destiny. But to surround these terrible revelations with picturesque or humorous literature, this is not acceptable.

It is already hard to breath in a tortured world. Here a new anguish is being offered to us, which may possibly be the last. Humanity is undoubtedly being offered its last chance. And it may well be good reason for a special edition. But this should surely be the subject of some quiet reflection and much silence.

Besides, there are other reasons to cautiously welcome the futuristic novel that the newspapers proffer. On seeing the diplomatic editor of Reuters Agency announce that this invention rends treaties obsolete or even makes the Potsdam agreements outdated, and remark that it does not matter that the Russians were at Koenigsberg or the Turkish at the Dardanelles - faced with this great chorus, one cannot help questioning the rather strange intentions behind scientific disinterest.

Let us be clear about this. If the Japanese capitulate through intimidation after the destruction of Hiroshima, we will rejoice. However, we refuse to draw anything from such grave news other than the will to plead even more fervently for a veritable international society, where the great powers will not have greater rights than those of small and medium sized nations, where war - a plague made definitive solely by the application of human intelligence - no longer depends on the appetites or doctrines of some or other state.

In the face of the terrifying prospects opening up to humanity, we see more clearly how peace is the only fight worth fighting. It is no longer a prayer, but an order which should rise up from the people to governments, the order to definitively choose between hell and reason.

See also, a related article by Paul Quilès, former French minister of defence, now president of the association Arrêtez 
la bombe.

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