At the end of Chapter One, Toshiko Sasaki’s leg is crushed beneath a heavy bookcase. The chapter ends with the famous sentence, “In the first moment of the atomic age, a human being was crushed by books.” The sentence is often taken to be an ironic observation about how, with the bombing of Hiroshima, years of scientific research resulted in utter destruction, rather than in the betterment of the human race. In this sense, the bookcase symbolizes the inherent danger and destructiveness of all human knowledge.
The Hiroshima quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bookcase. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Hiroshima published in 1989.).
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bookcase appears in Hiroshima. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One: A Noiseless Flash
...the bomb drops, Toshiko Sasaki is thrown to the floor and loses consciousness. A heavy bookshelf collapses in the explosion, crushing her left leg, so that “in the first moment of... (full context)
Chapter Two: The Fire