“The Atomic Cafe”

Film Forum

In Reflections, published in the New Yorker (February 1, 8, and 15, 1982), Jonathan Schell writes that “The right vantage point from which to view a [nuclear] holocaust is that of a corpse, but from that vantage point, of course, there is nothing to report.” For the mass detonation of nuclear warheads would result in the almost total annihilation of not only human life, but of nearly all forms of life on earth. There would be no reportage on evacuation procedures, no emergency health-care centers, no radio or television transmission of civil defense information. Just the simplicity of nothingness; extinction.

It is just this possible condition that has been handily omitted from all the projected scenarios of nuclear conflict. From 1945 on, the “information” on atomic testing and nuclear warfare and their effects on human beings reads like a bumpy little fairy tale rife with tiny discomforts,

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