On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred at the Chernobyl complex in Pripyat. English-language reportage on the incident has, so far, focused on facts, names, and data; Voices from Chernobyl presents first-hand accounts of what happened to the people of Belarus and the fear, anger, and uncertainty that they lived through. In order to give voice to their experiences, Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people (firefighters, disaster-cleanup technicians, and innocent citizens alike) affected by the meltdown. She presents these interviews in monologue form, giving readers a harrowing inside view into the minds of the affected people. No spin, no accusations, and no summary judgment: just the lifeshattering pain of the meltdown and the aftermath.
Svetlana Alexievich was born in the Ukraine in 1948 and grew up in Belarus. She’s primarily a newspaper journalist, and spent her early career in Minsk compiling first-hand accounts of World War II, the Soviet-Afghan War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Chernobyl meltdown. Her unflinching work – “the whole of our history … is a huge common grave and a bloodbath” – earned her persecution from the Lukashenko regime, and she was forced to emigrate; she lived in Paris, Gothenburg, and Berlin before returning to Minsk in 2011. She’s won a number of large prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Prix Médicis, and the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award. In 2014, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature.