Friday, April 22, 2005

More on Chernobyl:

Svetlana Alexievich's book - Voices From Chernobyl - has been translated by Masha Gessen's brother, Keith Gessen. An excerpt was published in the Winter 2005 issue of the Paris Review.

Here's what I wrote about Alexievich's book in summer 2003:

In 1999, I attempted to read a book about Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian author in exile. It was one of the most powerful books I had ever held in my hands: a collection of voices of the Chernobyl dead and the Chernobyl living, a history of Chernobyl and a history of the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union recited in a choir of monologues. Needless to say, President Lukashenko's people accuse Alexievich of working for the CIA, her "Voices from Chernobyl: Chronicle of the Future" has to be smuggled into Belarus and she has found refuge in France.

I wasn't able to finish the book, though. I wasn't strong enough. When I think of it, I always think about one narration, by an ethnic Russian refugee who escaped the civil war in Tajikistan in the early 1990s. A maternity ward nurse, she had once seen a group of armed men grabbing a newborn girl and throwing her out of the window. This woman re-settled to one of the most contaminated areas of Belarus, where she enjoyed taking long walks in the nearby woods, content at last. She didn't worry about radiation; as long as there were only trees around her and no people, she felt at peace.


I've also found a bunch of good pictures from the Zone today - by a British photographer John Darwell.

And I've looked through Elena's Ghost Town collection once again today - and felt as heartbroken as ever.

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