My rating: 2 stars
Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich could have been an informative and absorbing read. However, it failed to enthral me, since the testimonies presented throughout this non-fiction book weren’t edited, analysed nor properly contextualised. Occasionally, it raises interesting questions, but they are never fully explored.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident, which happened on 26 April 1986, didn’t affect only Ukraine. High levels of radiation were reported throughout Europe. No country was as affected as Belarus, though. The incidence of cancer increased immensely, as did the mortality rate. Svetlana Alexievich decided to give a voice to some of those who were affected. She interviewed former workers of the power plant, people who returned to a village that had been evacuated, doctors, scientists, displaced people and soldiers. Many had already died when the book was first published.
The Communist authorities lied and hid critical information. They didn’t explain how the accident happened, and the population wasn’t informed about the consequences. Military officers and clean-up workers, for example, weren’t told about the dangers of exposition to radiation. The main security agency for the Soviet Union, KGB, ordered them never to speak about what they had seen. Propaganda was successfully employed to the point that even engineers started to believe in it. This is some of the scant significant information that I was reminded of while reading. Continue reading