In April 1986 a series of explosions shook the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Flames lit up the sky and radiation escaped to contaminate the land and poison the people for years to come, while officials tried to hush up the accident. Svetlana Alexievich spent years collecting testimonies from survivors, crafting their voices into a haunting oral history of fear, anger and uncertainty, but also dark humour and love. Chernobyl Prayer is a chronicle of the past and a warning for our nuclear future.
Reviewed by Christian Tyler in Slightly Foxed Issue 60.
Histories of the Soul
The heroism of the firemen at Chernobyl, their pride and sense of duty, was in stark contrast to the cynical incompetence of the government. The men were oblivious to their lack of protection, which even if it had been available would not have saved them. When the army arrived, the place looked like a war zone. (Some residents thought world war had broken out.) But the soldiers were fighting a war against an invisible enemy. As one says, you did not die on the battlefield, only later when you got home . . .
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 60, Winter 2018
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