Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Keith Gessen


Reviewed by Anonymous (Library Patron)

What do you remember of the Chernobyl accident of 1989? I remember it was a big event, tragic, but life went on. Not for those millions affected by the Chernobyl nuclear breakdown!
This non-fiction book is not filled with nuclear jargon and numerical details but is fascinatingly and tragically rich in personal, human experience.
The author interviews hundreds of people, each with their own account and feelings, about their understanding and individual stories at that time. For most the truth of the devastation was swept under the rug by politicians. Others couldn’t comprehend the contamination that was colorless and unseen. “Dirt for them is ink, earth or oil stains, not isotopes with short half-lives. I don’t think they understood it any better than if I’d been a shaman from an African tribe.” Men courageously followed military orders to rush to the reactor site for immediate clean-up of radioactive waste that had just burned up and destroyed technology’s best robotics. Death was unknowingly a given.
I read haunting stories of illness and disease and the continuation of life with a different set of instructions. Some continued to live in their homeland that had been transformed more than a science fiction movie could portray.
I can readily understand why this author was given the Nobel Prize in Literature. She takes you deep inside the story. This book brings you as close as possible to comprehending a major earth changing event that transcends translation through our human understanding.

Available through the BRIDGES Library System

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