not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
this post was originally published on my Goodreads account.
Harrowing. Difficult to continue reading in places, because of the matter-of-fact description of unspeakable things happening to blameless people and the feelings of helplessness it evokes. Alexievich originates hardly a single word in this whole book. Instead, she interviewed hundreds of survivors, edited their accounts (leaving out whatever questions she asked) and put the stuff she wanted to keep in this book. We never get a scientific overview of the accident, we never get told the difference between rumor and fact, and there is no godlike authorial voice to sort out the conflicting accounts. We don’t know any more than the individuals who relate their own experiences, and this makes their fear and confusion more immediate and understandable. We’re thrown into the maelstrom of history with them and have to figure out what’s up and what’s down as best we can. The accounts in the book suggest an innate Belarussian gift for storytelling–everyone from peasants to scientists exhibit an eye for detail and a sense of pacing that would be the envy of most American short story writers. But I suspect the bulk of the praise here should go to Alexievich, for finding these diamonds in hundreds of interview hours and knowing exactly how much to show of each one.