Voices From Chernobyl
The Oral History of A Nuclear DisasterBook - 2006
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown---from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster---and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, Voices from Chernobyl is a crucially important work, unforgettable in its emotional power and honesty.
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Don’t write about the wonders of Soviet heroism. They existed—and they really were wonders. But first there had to be incompetence, negligence, and only after those did you get wonders: covering the embrasure, throwing yourself in front of a machine gun. But that those orders should never have been given, that there shouldn’t have been any need, no one writes about that.
Do you remember how it was in Tolstoy? Pierre Bezukhov is so shocked by the war, he thinks that he and the whole world have changed forever. But then some time passes, and he says to himself: “I’m going to keep yelling at the coach-driver just like before, I’m going to keep growling like before.” Then why do people remember? So that they can determine the truth? For fairness? So they can free themselves and forget? Is it because they understand they’re part of a grand event? Or are they looking into the past for cover? And all this despite the fact that memories are very fragile things, ephemeral things, this is not exact knowledge, but a guess that a person makes about himself. It isn’t even knowledge, it’s more like a set of emotions.
The mechanism of evil will work under conditions of apocalypse, also. That's what I understood. Man will gossip, and kiss up to the bosses, and save his television and ugly fur coat. And people will be the same until the end of time. Always.
The only righteous thing on the face of the earth is death. No one has ever bribed their way out of that. The earth takes us all: the good, the evil and the sinners. And that's all the justice you'll find in this world.
There’s a fragment of some conversation, I’m remembering it. Someone is saying: “You have to understand: this is not your husband anymore, not a beloved person, but a radioactive object with a strong density of poisoning. You’re not suicidal. Get ahold of yourself.” And I’m like someone who’s lost her mind: “But I love him! I love him!” He’s sleeping, and I’m whispering: “I love you!” Walking in the hospital courtyard, “I love you.” Carrying his sanitary tray, “I love you.”
They die, but no one's really asked us. No one's asked what we've been through. What we saw. No one wants to hear about death. About what scares them.
But I was telling you about love. About my love...
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