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  • Published: 1 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9780241270530
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $24.00

Chernobyl Prayer

Voices from Chernobyl




A startling history of the Chernobyl disaster by the winner of the Nobel prize in literature

On 26 April 1986 the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occured in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. While the official Soviet narrative downplayed the accident's impact, Svetlana Alexievich wanted to know how people understood it. She recorded hundreds of interviews with workers at the nuclear plant, refugees and resettlers, scientists and bureaucrats, crafting their monologues into a stunning oral history of the nuclear disaster. What their stories reveal is the fear, anger and uncertainty with which they still live but also a dark humour and desire to see the beauty of everyday life, including that of Chernobyl's new landscape. A chronicle of the past and a warning for our nuclear future, Chernobyl Prayer is a haunting masterpiece.

  • Published: 1 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9780241270530
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $24.00

Also by Svetlana Alexievich

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Praise for Chernobyl Prayer

A collage of oral testimony that turns into the psycho­biography of a nation not shown on any map... The book leaves radiation burns on the brain

Julian Barnes, Guardian

A beautifully written book, it's been years since I had to look away from a page because it was just too heart-breaking to go on. Give me beautiful prose and I'll follow you anywhere

Arundhati Roy, Elle

A searing mix of eloquence and wordlessness... From her interviewees' monologues she creates history that the reader, at whatever distance from the events, can actually touch

Julian Evans, Daily Telegraph

One of the most humane and terrifying books I've ever read

Helen Simpson, Observer

Alexievich's documentary approach makes the experiences vivid, sometimes almost unbearably so - but it's a remarkably democratic way of constructing a book... 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

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

A moving piece of polyphony, skilfully assembled from what must have been a huge mass of material... We are living in Alexievich's 'age of disasters'. This haunting book offers us at least some ways of thinking about that predicament

Lucy Hughes-Hallett, New Statesman

Alexievich assembles the previously silenced or unsung heroes into a chorus that has the power to move, stun and inspire awe. The result is a remarkable oral history, an essential read

Malcolm Forbes, Herald Scotland

Not merely a work of documentation but of excavation, of revealed meaning. It is hard to imagine how anyone in the West will read these cantos of loss and not feel a sense of communion, of a shared humanity

Andrew Meier, The Nation

Alexievich serves no ideology, only an ideal: to listen closely enough to the ordinary voices of her time to orchestrate them into extraordinary books

Philip Gourevitch, New Yorker

[Alexievich] has become one of my heroes

Atul Gawande

Awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Svetlana Alexievich is a brilliant choice that recalibrates the status of "non-fiction" in the literary canon

Arifa Akbar, Independent

Through her books and her life itself, Alexievich has gained probably the world's deepest, most eloquent understanding of the post-Soviet condition

Masha Gessen, New Yorker

Alexievich retreats into the wings to let her subjects speak. But this is the art that conceals art. Her editor's flair for selection, contrast and emphasis, her almost cinematic touch with cuts, pans and close-ups, make her a documentary virtuoso

Boyd Tonkin, Spectator

Her interviews go on for hours. She goes back for more. She transcribes. She discards three-quarters of her material. She polishes. She takes pains to convey the cadence of a person's words. It shows. The distilled work goes deep into the subject. She is after the ephemeral; the emotion behind written history; the "history of the soul." Here, she believes, is where the truth lies

Vanora Bennett, Prospect

This masterly new translation by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait retains the nerve and pulse of the Russian, conveying the angst and confusion of the narrators

Serguei Alex. Oushakine, Times Literary Supplement

Absolutely fantastic

Karl Ove Knausgaard

The last book that made me cry... incredible

Joe Dunthorne, Guardian

This masterly new translation by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait retains the nerve and pulse of the Russian

TLS

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