Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

 

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Voices from Chernobyl (The oral history of a nuclear disaster ) by Svetlana Alexievich

Ukrainian Non-Fiction

Original title – Чернобыльская молитва

Translator – Keith Gessen

Source – Library book

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

I choose Bob Dylan’s a hard rain is going to fall a song wrote years before Chernobyl but about the effect of a nuclear fallout .

Now this is always the time of year I try to squeeze in one or two names from the list of Nobel hopefuls .For the last couple of years Svetlan Alexievich name has been one that has risen in the betting .Svetlana born in Ukraine grew up in Belarus , became a journalist and wrote a few novels then she developed first via Zinky boys her account of the fighters in Afghan wars a technique of gathering first hands accounts from people and crafting them into monologues .This book won the National book critics circle award for its English translation .

The smoke was from the burning bitumen , which had covered the roof .He said later it was walking on tar .they tried to beat down the flames ,They kicked at the burning graphite with their feet … they weren’t wearing their canvas gear .They went off just as they were , in their shirt sleeves .No one told them .they had been called for a fire , that was it

Lyudmilla on how Vasily her husband a fireman attend the disaster , he later died .

Voices from Chernobyl blends the voice of those directly connected to the disaster .The books opens with the account of the wife of one of the fireman that first attend the explosion at Chernobyl . Her’s is a very touching account of how her husband died after he had been there that day , but also little things like how the doctors that helped that day were all destined to die .Then about how the disaster effect the land nearest the blast .As the monologues build we see , how the disaster effect the land , moved people made some act one way and others act another day . How the children born at that time are sick .So the events of that day in 1986 and the years after how the government tried to cover up how bad it was in the reality .

My little daughter – she’s different .She’s not like the others .She’s going to grow up and ask me :” why aren’t I like the others ?”

When she was born ,she wasn’t a baby , she was a little sack , sewed up everywhere , not a single opening , just the eyes .The medical card says :”Girl born with multiple complex pathologies :aplasia of the anus , aplasia of the vagina , aplasia of the left kidney .” That’s how it sounds in medical talk , but more simply : no pee-pee ,no butt , one kidney on the second day I watched her get operated on , on the second day of her life .She opened her eyes and smiled , and I thought that she was about to start crying .But , God, she smiled !

Larisa talking about the birth of her daughter effected by the Chernobyl disaster .

I loved the style of this book Alexievich has a great way of mixing the voices she has recorded  . She really pulls together whatwas told to her the first account in this book was so powerful Lyudmilla telling the story of her late husband Vasily Ignatenko .The style is like one of those collages made up of smaller photos that when you step back and look forms that iconic image of the blown reactor at chernobyl .For the second time in a few weeks I rediscover the strength of non fiction writing from the former soviet bloc , like Dubravka Urgesic Svetlana Alexievich shows the power of good non fiction writing for hitting home with the reader , what you get from these accounts is a sense of the  sheer despair at how the government failed , lives fell apart and people were rip away from their homes and left without anywhere to really be .I can see why here named is mentioned as a potential Nobel Literature winner .I know need to find a copy of Zinky boys to read by her .

Have you read her books ? Do you have a favourite Non fiction writer in Translation ?

 

 

 

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Sep 03, 2015 @ 10:12:32

    Some years after the disaster, my school hosted some kids from Chernobyl who came to Australia via a program aimed at improving their health. We were shocked at how pale they were because although our students included refugee kids fleeing all kinds of disasters, we’d never encountered kids suffering from radiation sickness before.

    Reply

  2. heavenali
    Sep 03, 2015 @ 16:40:10

    This sounds like a book telling some very powerful stories. No doubt they are stories that should be told.

    Reply

  3. BookerTalk
    Sep 04, 2015 @ 09:56:23

    I heard recently that there are tourist trips to Chernobyl now. Good in a way since it helps people remember but what a very strange way to spend ones holiday.

    Reply

  4. biblioglobal
    Sep 05, 2015 @ 22:38:33

    I hope to read this one soon. It’s been on my to-read list forever.

    Reply

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  6. Tony
    Oct 08, 2015 @ 11:31:14

    Well, you got this one right, Stu🙂 While I’m happy for her, I’m too much of a fiction man, so I doubt I’ll be rushing to try her work.

    Next year, though, I really should remember to try some possible authors in the lead up – I never remember until it’s too late (and I’ve always got too many reviews underway/due anyway!).

    Reply

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