Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Voices from Chernobyl

Voices from Chernobyl: the Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster / Svetlana Alexievich, trans. Keith Gessen, 236 p.

Interviews of emergency workers, their families, scientists, politicians, and ordinary people approximately 10 years after the explosion. 

If you look at election results around the globe in the past couple of years, you could be forgiven for thinking that when 'The People' speak, most of what they say is, well, stupid.  Alexievich demonstrates otherwise, thankfully.  The voices of ordinary farmers and laborers as they recount an experience both horrific and never-ending were profound, graceful, moving and extremely insightful.  At times the wisdom in these pages seemed to equal that of 100 novels.  The reading was so intense that I could only handle four or five pages at a sitting.

An especially memorable voice was that of Vasily Nesterenko, former director of the Institute for Nuclear Energy at the Belarussian Academy of Sciences.  He lays out in damning detail the many ways the government's practice of putting politics before science and plain denial greatly increased radioactive exposure to the population.  In reading his words, it was hard not to think of another country that puts politics before science with results we can only begin to predict.

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