Back a few years ago, when I was at Dalkey Archive Press, we published Voices from Chernobyl, a stunning book by Svetlana Alexievich (and translated by Keith Gessen) that collected dozens of monologues by survivors of the Chernobyl catastrophe. The book is as haunting as anything I’ve ever read, and everyone who’s read this remembers certain stories, certain images that they’ll never ever forget. Which is one of the reasons why this won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction that year.
The reason I bring this up (aside from my belief that everyone should read this book) is because over at io9 there’s a gallery of images from Prypiat today:
Before the Chernobyl Disaster, Prypiat was a thriving, modern city with a population 50,000, many of them workers and scientists at the plant. It was two days after the disaster before Prypiat was entirely abandoned, and many of the plant workers exposed to the initial wave of radiation were brought to the Prypiat Hospital for treatment, before it became clear that the hospital itself was dangerously irradiated. Unfortunately, intrusions of nature and normal decay aside, images of modern Prypiat don’t necessarily offer a pure sense of the state in which the residents and rescue workers left the city, as items have been moved and removed by vandals, looters, and photographers looking for more emotional pictures. Still, the photos offer a sense of an aging, crumbling city, and how plant and animal life can quickly take over when humans have departed.
The images are pretty arresting, and worth checking out.
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
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Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .