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Bataille, G. (1991). Concerning the Accounts Given By the Residents of Hiroshima. Am. Imago, 48(4):497-514.

(1991). American Imago, 48(4):497-514

Concerning the Accounts Given By the Residents of Hiroshima1

Georges Bataille

Translated by:
Alan Keenan

Let's admit it; the population of hell increases annually by fifty million souls.2 A world war may accelerate the rhythm slightly, but it cannot significantly alter it. To the ten million killed in the war from 1914 to 1918 one must add the two hundred million who, during the same period, were fated to die natural deaths. People are quick to speak of the evil effects of science, but these remain outweighed by its benefits. The average life-span in the seventeenth century was lower than it is today. Furthermore, all sorts of plagues used to decimate humans.

If such is the case, the relative apathy of the masses is not so surprising. When we encounter nothing but power-lessness, the desire to react exhausts us, and we forget that the margin of unhappiness at stake is not so great, that a core of darkness remains untouchable. Who doesn't want to free the world from fear? It is a task which takes precedence over all others. And yet the most ardent of would-be liberators are not so deeply troubled as they would like, while the masses can only shake their heads. The last wars have broken out in spite of the general will; their slaughter revolted the conscience. But the dread they provoked, however great, remained a stupid, inconsistent one … and laced with curiosity.

Following such experiences, whose horror should have, in principle—but in the end, what is this principle?—left the world quaking, the desire to put an end to them is more powerless than it ever was. We live in a darkness without fear and without hope. Even political parties no longer have the heart to use as an instrument of propaganda, with the blind passion of faith, their former “struggle against war.” In fact, they have nothing arresting to say; they prefer to attract (isn't it really to distract?) our attention onto closer goals.

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