Richard Lloyd Parry avec Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone
On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,500 people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.
It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis, and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.
Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo, and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings. He met a priest who performed exorcisms on people possessed by the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village which had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.
What really happened to the local children as they waited in the school playground in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?
Ghosts of the Tsunami is a classic of literary non-fiction, a heart-breaking and intimate account of an epic tragedy, told through the personal accounts of those who lived through it. It tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe, and the bleak struggle to find consolation in the ruins.
"Every time I think of it, I’m filled with wonderment (and, I suppose, professional envy). Lloyd Parry is such a good reporter: discreet yet unsentimental; ever-present, but able also swiftly to absent himself from the page… This book is a future classic of disaster journalism, up there with John Hersey’s Hiroshima." (Rachel Cooke Observer)
"A compassionate and piercing look at the communities ravaged by the tsunami, which claimed more than 99% of the day’s casualties of 18,500 – the greatest single loss of life in Japan since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki… Nothing symbolised such failures better than the case of Okawa primary school, whose story is one of the engines powering this book, giving it the character of a finely conceived crime fiction or a psychological drama… Tragic, engrossing." (Eri Hotta Guardian)
"In still, novelistic prose, he rescues from the depths of the ocean and the foul-smelling mud the lives that were ended on that day… Parry’s self-described purpose is to shake off detachment and to seek to imagine ― really imagine ― events so horrible that we take refuge in the trope that they are unimaginable. But there is an equal and opposite force in his remarkable treatment, which is to study the misery of tragedy from a safe distance… Parry, a journalist and long-time Tokyo resident, is able to draw something meaningful, even lovely, from the well of misery… Overall, the strength of the book lies in its stories, its observations and its language… The language is daring throughout." (David Pilling Financial Times)
"Ghosts of the Tsunami is alert to the social and political ramifications and transfixed by the spectral quality of the post-disaster landscape… These twin streams – one universal, the other intensely particular – come together in the mystery that is at this book’s core… Some of his most fascinating chapters take in the disaster’s psychological aftermath… It is full of stories of human endeavor, of individual and collective triumph over well-nigh insuperable odds… As well as being full of ghosts, Lloyd Parry’s A-grade reportage is also full of metaphors." (D. J. Taylor The Times)
"Mr Lloyd Parry offers a voice to the grieving who, too often, found it hard to be heard. It is a thoughtful lesson to all societies whose first reaction in the face of adversity is to shut down inquiry and cover up the facts. You will not read a finer work of narrative non-fiction this year." (Economist)
Richard Lloyd Parry is Asia Editor of The Times. He was born in 1969 and was educated at Oxford. He has been visiting Asia for eighteen years and since 1995 has lived in Tokyo as a foreign correspondent, first for the Independent and now for The Times. He has reported from twenty-one countries and several wars, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, East Timor, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Kosovo and Macedonia. His work has also appeared in the London Review of Books and the New York Times Magazine. He is the author of In The Time of Madness, an eyewitness account of the violence that interrupted in Indonesia in the 1990s, and People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman.