In principle, a disaster can only be described in retrospect. One cannot know in advance that it will happen, otherwise there would be no disasters at all.

Disasters, innumerable, natural or human, come to occur in the world, and in this sense, if we are not after a disaster, it is because we are before another disaster.

The important thing, when we wonder about “what is possible after a disaster”, a question often asked throughout the world, is to bear in mind that we are also on the eve of other disasters to come, and that we must therefore also wonder about what we can write before a disaster, or between two disasters, which is the permanent state in which we live.

I am also thinking of the temporality proper to disaster narratives, as a literary convention. To the golden rule that one must always describe them in retrospect. You can’t come in the day before.

At the same time, when several disasters are superimposed on each other, as is the case today in Fukushima, we are at the same time before, after and even during the disaster.

Especially since, as the philosopher Osamu Nishitani says, once a nuclear accident has occurred, it is only the beginning. The beginning of a dereliction which is itself the cause of the catastrophe.

So now, in which grammatical tense should we describe this succession of catastrophes?And in which tense should the description be completed?

To this difficult question, I do not have an answer yet. By opting for the form of the chronicle, I submit myself to a certain tense, which is perhaps only valid in this precise case: the present. There is also that the feeling that dominates, it is that one is always “in” the catastrophe, even if it is mixed with that, as I already wrote, of retrospective visions and worries projected towards the future, which can be realized or not.

A writer who wants to tell a story about a catastrophe, what temporality should he choose? And even before coming to narration or description, in what grammatical tense does one live this moment?

Any discourse on catastrophe is inevitably linked to, or even haunted by, the question of time.

From Ryoko Sekiguchi “It’s not a coincidence”