Chernobyl Prayer: Voices from Chernobyl (Penguin Modern Classics)

£4.995
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Chernobyl Prayer: Voices from Chernobyl (Penguin Modern Classics)

Chernobyl Prayer: Voices from Chernobyl (Penguin Modern Classics)

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A true history of its people need be no more than the howls of despair of millions of voices, punctuated by moments of incredible tenderness, courage and grim humour. Her works include The Unwomanly Face of War (1985) , Last Witnesses (1985), Boys in Zinc (1991), Chernobyl Prayer (1997) and Second-Hand Time (2013). Slightly Foxed introduces its readers to books that are no longer new and fashionable but have lasting appeal. There is a depth and intensity to the suffering of those people affected by the Chernobyl disaster which Svetlana Alexievich has succeeded in capturing through her interviews. She has won many international awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.

She has won many international awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for 'her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time'. Alexievich interviewed more than 500 eyewitnesses, including firefighters, liquidators (members of the cleanup team), politicians, physicians, physicists, and ordinary citizens over a period of 10 years. Her works include The Unwomanly Face of War (1985), Last Witnesses (1985), Zinky Boys (1990), Voices from Chernobyl (1997), and Secondhand Time (2013). 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. For younger bookworms – and nostalgic older ones too – there’s the Slightly Foxed Cubs series, in which we’ve reissued a number of classic nature and historical novels.While officials tried to hush up the accident, Svetlana Alexievich spent years collecting testimonies from survivors - clean-up workers, residents, firefighters, resettlers, widows, orphans - crafting their voices into a haunting oral history of fear, anger and uncertainty, but also dark humour and love. I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a single book with such a comprehensive understanding of a historical moment, as seen through the eyes of the people who experienced it. The real Chernobyl: HBO's hit miniseries is ending, and here's how its characters compare to their real-life counterparts".

Many of the over 500 interviewees were scientists or engineers who give clear, thoughtful, insightful explanations of what went wrong and why so many of the mitigation efforts were futile. In Chernobyl Prayer each interview is usually a few pages long, and reads as a monologue – which is how they are described in the contents pages. One man actually reclaimed his front door – which his family had always laid the bodies of their dead relatives – snatching it in the night and taking it, like a thief, through the woods. This book gives a voice to the anger, pain, and heartbreak, but it is seldom an easy voice to listen to, because it forces the reader to confront how little they really know about what will one day be remembered among the most significant events of the 20th century. But Svetlana Alexievich doesn’t intrude with facts and analysis—she lets Lyudmila Ignatenko give the full, uninterrupted account of her husband’s slow and painful death from radiation poisoning.I would not describe myself as an emotional person, and I seldom find myself overwhelmed by anyone else’s feelings, but Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future (or Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, as it is also published) makes for heavy reading. At which point, when you consider the extent to which she has been traversing the irradiated landscape, you realise she has put herself on the line in a way very few authors ever do.

What complicates the story is that Lyudmila is pregnant with their first child, and she knows that being with her husband will damage both herself and the baby. Mrs Woolf, wife of the manager, is a very celebrated author and, in her own way, more important than Galsworthy.Alexievich's documentary approach makes the experiences vivid, sometimes almost unbearably so - but it's a remarkably democratic way of constructing a book. To become a subscriber to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly Magazine, please visit our subscriptions page.



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