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Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

(Голоса утопии #4)

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  36,398 ratings  ·  4,869 reviews
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

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
Paperback, 236 pages
Published April 18th 2006 by Picador (first published 1997)
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Alberto Probably because the author's works, weren't as widely publicized as they are now, after she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Svetlana They are organized as a series because they all talk about the Soviet reality, but they deal with different publics and events and are standalone volu…moreThey are organized as a series because they all talk about the Soviet reality, but they deal with different publics and events and are standalone volumes. (less)

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Start your review of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Not for the faint-hearted
Today, April 26th, is the 26th 27th anniversary of Chernobyl catastrophe. In case you're wondering - no, Google did NOT feature it on its home page (same as last year, sadly). But shouldn't humanity remember this disaster?

This is one of the most horrifying books I have ever read. It reads like a postapocalyptic story, except for all of it is horrifyingly real.

Svetlana Alexievich, a journalist, provides real but almost surreal in their horror oral accounts of Chernobyl disaster. On April 26
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was about 5 when Chernobyl happened, and my family lived near the Baltic Sea, not that far from the explosion zone, relatively speaking. I can't really remember what exactly I understood about what had happened. I remember our family friend's little niece came from Belarus to stay for the summer. I have strange knowledge of the dangers of radiation and mutations and acid rains and death by "belokroviye" (leukemia). I knew a lot of people with enlarged thyroids and I also somehow still know tha ...more
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Manny by: Pavel
The Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich spent three years interviewing people who had been involved in Chernobyl: villagers from the surrounding area, "liquidators" (members of the cleanup squad), widows and children, nuclear scientists, politicians, even people who, incredibly, had moved to Chernobyl after the accident. She presents their words almost without comment. Sometimes she adds a [Laughs]; sometimes [Stops]; sometimes [Starts crying]; sometimes [Breaks down completely]. I am not ...more
"Chernobyl is like the war of all wars. There’s nowhere to hide. Not underground, not underwater, not in the air."

While cheerful carols played, holiday lights sparkled, and countless dollars were being spent on mostly unnecessary gadgets and superfluous luxuries, I read this account of one of the worst disasters ever to afflict our planet. I sunk further into the funk that threatened the existence of my Christmas tree and that brought my own holiday shopping to a screeching halt. It seemed absur
JV (semi-hiatus)
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
"You feel how some completely unseen thing can enter and then destroy the whole world, can crawl into you."
Dejecting and quintessential, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster contains the harrowing accounts of lives lost and lived after the cataclysmic disaster that happened on April 26, 1986, near the city of Pripyat. The explosion created a seemingly bright crimson glow in the sky. Awestruck, residents nearby marvelled at its exhilarating beauty.
"We didn't know t
Steven Godin
"Sometime in the future, we will understand Chernobyl as a philosophy. Two states divided by barbed wire: one, the zone itself; the other, everywhere else. People have hung white towels on the rotting stakes around the zone, as if they were crucifixes. It's a custom here. People go there as if to a graveyard. A post-technological world. Time has gone backwards. What is buried there is not only their home but a whole epoch. An epoch of faith. In science! In an ideal of social justice! A great emp ...more
Greta G
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I will never forget a documentary I saw about the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986. This documentary, The Battle of Chernobyl, directed by Thomas Johnson, provides a very good understanding of what happened at the time of the accident and afterwards. It contains rare original footage and interviews with people who were present, or involved in the handling of this catastrophe. It's available on demand on Vimeo and I highly recommend it, because I think it's a really good addi ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I watched the HBO miniseries about Chernobyl, I thought incessantly about the people: the first responders, the farmers, the children. In short, the entire affected population. Lies were told, contaminated food consumed, lives were lost and are still being lost. The human cost is incalculable and ongoing to this day. Chernobyl should not be referred to as an “accident.” It was, and is, an unimaginable disaster. It destroyed an empire, demoralized a people and shocked the world. This anthology ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Damn it. This book broke my heart. I mean I’ve read all about it before, I’ve watched things. BUT, it still breaks my heart all these people went through and the animals! 🥺

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Very touching voices, chronicling the Chernobyl experience and comparing life before and after the moment that changed everything.

Svetlana Alexievich captures the suffering of ordinary people of all walks of life, as well as that of professional staff sent to Chernobyl to deal with the crisis immediately after it happened. She creates a social panorama of the society that was affected in its totality by the nuclear disaster.

I will never forget my feelings in 1986, living in West Germany and at
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2020 has been a scary year. For some reason I decided that it would be a good year to read and watch as much as I could about Chernobyl. Maybe not the best idea I have ever had, but at least it has led me to take in some pretty captivating non-fiction content.

First I read Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster which was extremely powerful and nerve-wracking.

Then I watched the Chernobyl series on HBO. While I don’t believe Midnight in Chernob
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, owned
This book was really, really good and I might consider re-reading it.
What's with us people that we love so much reading about disastrous things like that?
Adam Dalva
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary compendium of monologues detailing various effects of the Chernobyl disaster. Alexievich's skill at unearthing horrible, moving truths from her interviewees is notable. I'd suggest supplementing the book with some background reading on Chernobyl (wikipedia is fine), since the medium doesn't allow for a direct re-telling of what happened. The two wives' tales that bookend the narrative will stick with me for a long time.
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it

A few years ago, I left a copy of Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History out on the table. It was designed as a sort of breadcrumb trail for my teenaged son who didn’t need to read since he already knew everything. I hoped he might be sucked in by the pictures.
A week later my son walked out of his bedroom clutching the book. “Have you read this!?” he was nearly yelling with urgency. “This guy…I can’t believe…shit! I’m telling my English teacher that he needs to make everyone in the
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-german
A very interesting and important book, although sometimes quite hard to read due to the topic. I'm not in the position to judge the individual stories, I can just say that they all hit me in some way, made me emotional and/or made me scoff at all the horrible and unjustified things that took place.
Oct 11, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: nobel
Note: This is not a review of the book.

Nobel prize makes us read writers we hadn't even heard of before. A good thing for sure. When I saw the news flash of 2014 lit prize I was like Patrick Who? The same as this year. Well, of course this is my utter ignorance, so far as this year's winner is concerned, who seems to be quite well-known in serious reading circles. If creative non-fiction is as good for Nobel as fiction and poetry, I'm wondering why didn't Ryszard Kapuściński ever get it. Now tha
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia, soviet, belarus
The first interview is with the widow of one of the firemen who were sent in on the first day. He'd been shoveling radioactive sludge dressed in only jeans and a t-shirt, his skin turned grey over an afternoon, he literally fell apart within days. She caught cancer from sitting at his bedside as he died.

The second interview is with a psychologist who lived through World War II in the Ukraine and still can't find anything that compares to working in the Zone.

The third is with one of the old women
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When i finished to read the last page of this book and closed it, a very important phrase came in my mind, it came deep from my soul....
Iudica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta; ab homine iniquo et doloso eripe me (Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy:
deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man) Psalm 42,1
May the dead all be embraced by eternal life, and may the pain of the living one day have justice in front of the Almighty.
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a moving, often harrowing, oral history of the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. It begins with the story of the young, pregnant wife of one of the first fire fighters, who responded to the fire at Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and of his slow, untimely death. This is hard to read, but also extremely humbling. The author allows the words of those who lived, and many who still live, in the affected areas to tell their own story. It is a catalogue of trauma – of lives which w ...more
There's nowhere to hide. Not underground, not underwater, not in the air.
I was born in the age of the known Chernobyl.
Everyone found a justification for themselves, an explanation. I experimented on myself. And basically I found out that the frightening things in life happen quietly and naturally.
Who are our fittest.
In Afghanistan death was a normal thing. You could understand it there.
Who are our heroes.
I didn't know we weren't allowed to love here.
Rabbits reabsorb their young w
“In the space of one night we shifted to another place in history.”

“It sometimes felt to me as if I was recording the future.”

I recently spent a weekend riveted in front of the TV, watching the incredible HBO series “Chernobyl”, sitting on the edge of my seat, unglued by the story I saw on the screen, impressed by the flawless cinematography and utterly baffled that a TV show about a nuclear explosion could freak me out way more than any horror movie ever had. I read an interview with the seri
Jen/The Tolkien Gal/ジェニファー
"Is there anything more frightening than people?"

One day I will read this book again.

One day when I can muster the courage to trek back to my tear-stained copy.

Not only is Alexievich a wonderful journalist, but a woman who knows how to talk to people as fellow human beings who pour out their aching hearts onto the pages of these books.

She captures the dialogue wonderfully; she makes you feel as though you were at the Chernobyl Plant when it failed. She also manages to encapsulate such a rich var
E. G.
Some historical background
A lone human voice
The author interviews herself on missing history and why Chernobyl calls our view of the world into question

--Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future

A lone human voice
In place of an epilogue
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1997
The Soviet Union was the worst place for Chernobyl to happen, and for the same reasons that’s why it happened there. The agrarian society suddenly pushed into the atom age, ignorant and stubborn. The corruption, favouring the party line over competence, fixing any problem with a kludge, but via central planning. And the Soviet man ethos of sacrificing oneself on the altar of the country. Russia has always had many souls to spare.
This book is as bad as some of the most horrific apocalyptic/dystop
Deeply harrowing, deeply moving, and at times incredibly difficult to read. Alexievich has produced something that goes beyond simply storytelling or presenting the facts about Chernobyl. She’s lived through it with the people she speaks too. She seems able to present their words as if you’re there, experiencing the initial pain and death, ostracism and prejudice along with them.

It’s a masterpiece of writing that packs the initial punch of reliving a young woman’s experiences by her dying husba
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
CONGRATULATIONS, SVETLANA ALEXIEVICH WITH THE NOBEL WIN! I can't express enough how proud for her and happy I am right now!
Undoubtedly, this was one the most, if not the most powerful text written in Russian language for the last few decades. It's a doc book. Svetlana Aleksievich gave voice to dozens of ordinary people who suffered from Chernobyl disaster. They are telling their stories without auth
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: russian-history
3.5 Stara The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster .

On April 26 1986 the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occured in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quaters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl Presents personal accounts of the tragedy.

I remember here in Ireland in 2002 Iodine tablets designed to counteract radioactive iodine were issued across Ireland amid fears of a terrorist attack on the Sellafield site, which is just 180 kilometres from the Irish coast. The 2002 batch – 14.
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Voices from Chernobyl has been sitting on my bedside table for months, and numerous times I have approached it cautiously as though it were a wild animal. There necessarily exists, between the reader and any given book, a one-sided relationship; I knew that if I were to read Voices I would be taking something from it, without giving anything back, except perhaps a review. It was, however, the something that concerned me. There are, for me at least, certain books that ask of you: do you need this ...more
Neal Adolph
I had no idea.

But now I know something more.

What can I say about your book, Svetlana? Not much, to be honest. My mind is processing it slowly, thinking about the format and methodology you used, wondering if what you have done is good enough to warrant having won the Nobel while, at the same time, marveling at the power of your work. You see, I had no idea of the greater impacts of the Chernobyl incident on the lives of the people who were misled and abused by the state. I had no means of under
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Chernobyl. 1986.

A woman loved her husband more than life itself, but because he had been to Chernobyl to help in the cleanup, and that, without any protective gear, she watched him slowly die, and in the end his once “beautiful face” became distorted like that of a monster. She kissed his body all over, just as she had always done. She may have cried as she told her story of their life, their love, that is, if she had any tears left to cry.

The men and women mostly all cried, when telli
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Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine. Her father was Belarusian and her mother Ukrainian. Alexievich grew up in Belarus, where both her parents were teachers. She studied to be a journalist at the University of Minsk and worked a teacher, journalist and editor. In Minsk she has worked at the newspaper Sel'skaja Gazeta, Alexievich's criticism of the political regimes in the Sovi ...more

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Articles featuring this book

Even nonfiction can hold the stuff of nightmares. Whether it’s natural disasters, outbreaks of plague, or serial killers hidden...
98 likes · 62 comments
“Death is the fairest thing in the world. No one's ever gotten out of it. The earth takes everyone - the kind, the cruel, the sinners. Aside from that, there's no fairness on earth.” 257 likes
“Is there anything more frightening than people?” 176 likes
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