Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
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.
Mesmerizing and chilling
By M. Grigsby - May 3, 2005
This book is a translation of interviews with survivors 10 years after Chernobyl. The first-person descriptions of living in the "Zone" after the disaster, and the implications of living in radioactivity is chilling and compelling. The book is full of heartbreaking stories of Russian people who survived WWII but then were confronted with another disaster of unbelievable magnitude. I absolutely couldn't put this book down, and feel that it should be promoted as one of the best books of the year. As we are now approaching the 20th anniversary of this event, I keep wondering how many of those people interviewed in 1996 are still alive. This book deserves a huge audience!
By Stephen Balbach - November 30, 2006
Occasionally I'll read first-hand accounts about human catastrophes in the modern world, such as Sudan or Rwanda or Katrina, because it offers a window into what I as a middle class American normally would never see or experience, hopefully making me a better and wiser person without becoming numb or a "dark tourist". Books are more subtle and rich than film and more rewarding in the end.
As an oral history this is a frightening experience (the term "experience" emphasized). Chernobyl has been largely hushed up and kept quiet, the scope of it is worse than most know or understand (occasionally we hear a few hundred or thousand people died and certain cancers are slightly up, don't believe it, much worse). Only about %5 of the nuclear material escaped so it was a minor accident on the scale of things. There is a %50 chance of another meltdown happening elsewhere in the world over the next 40 years (sourced in book). Had Chernobyl been a full meltdown much of Europe would be... read more
Profound and important
By !!! - September 9, 2007
This book is a punch in the gut. There's no nicer way to say it. It's downright devastating. It's something that every single person should read. Even if you only know Chernobyl vaguely, two things are made painfully apparent by this book: whatever you've read about Chernobyl in the past has probably grossly underestimated the magnitude of the disaster; and the death and injury toll from the accident hasn't stopped yet. Not by a long shot.
In her quest to expose the human cost of Chernobyl, journalist Svetlana Alexievich presents three years' worth of interviews with a wide cross-section of individuals. Unlike most books about Chernobyl, the focus is on the people of Belarus, who were not evacuated as quickly as their southern neighbors in Ukraine. The breadth of the author's research is astounding. The reader meets the widow of one of the first responders to the Chernobyl accident, a young firefighter who arrived at the nuclear plant clad only in his street clothes and... read more