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Hiroshima

The morning after
Sadegh Hedayat at the dawn of the atomic age

August 7, 2003
The Iranian

On August 6 ,1945 , at 5 PM , I crossed the door sill of Paradise Cafe. Sadegh Hedayat had asked me the day before to join him a little earlier than the rest of our group in order to discuss Sartre's novel "La Nausée" (Nausea) which I had given him.

The coffee and cake shop was almost totally empty for at this time of the day patrons would seldom confront the summer heat that transformed Tehran's streets into real inferno. The closed shutters plunged the room in semi-obscurity. The ceiling fans were humming and there were no air conditioners at the time.

I spotted Hedayat at our usual table, slumped in his chair, his eyes closed as if he had slumbered. I sat near him and said hello. He opened his eyes and mumbled something. He seemed gloomy and downcast. He did not answer my query and pushed the afternoon paper towards me. I read the headline in very bold characters: "Americans Drop Atomic Bomb on Japan!"

The news dispatch spoke of enormous casualties and utter destruction. The whole city of Hiroshima had been wiped away. "So many dead and wounded," I exclaimed with bewilderment.

"Yes, that's sad," said Hedayat, "but there's even a more terrible consequence to it."

"What do you mean?"

"For us it is worse than a death sentence."

"I don't follow you."

"Just consider the meaning for our country. Beyond the destruction, beyond the terrible weapon, there is a formidable scientific leap. The world will never be the same again. America now, and later Europe, will accomplish new progress more rapidly than ever as we are still steeping in medieval conditions. The gap between us and the West will now widen more than ever before. We will not be able to catch up with them. We will never be able to fill the abyss that this invention has created between us and them. We are condemned to wallow in underdevelopment and backwardness."

Today, as the world is marking the 58th anniversary of the dropping of the A bomb over Hiroshima, and as I am looking at the sorry situation of my country of origin, I remember my conversation with Hedayat at our Paradise Cafe in Tehran. Accelerating scientific and technological advances have left Iran far behind other nations. I am afraid that it would become more and more difficult to catch up. Are we doomed as Hedayat thought half a century ago?

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