from Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices From Chernobyl

“It’s easy to find books here. Now, an empty clay pitcher, or a spoon or a fork, that you won’t find, but books are all over. The other day I found a volume of Pushkin. ‘And the thought of death is sweet to my soul.’ I remembered that. Yes. I’ve come to like thinking. And silence helps you to prepare yourself. Man lives with death, but he doesn’t understand what it is. But I’m here alone. Yesterday I chased a wolf and a she-wolf out of the school, they were living there.”


“I remember coming back one time from a business trip. There was a moonlit landscape. On both sides of the road, to the very horizon, stretched these fields covered in white dolomite. The poisoned topsoil had been removed and buried, and in its place they brought white dolomite sand. It was like not-earth. This vision tortured me for a long time and I tried to write a story. I imagined what would be here in a hundred years: a person, or something else, would be galloping along on all fours, throwing out its long back legs, knees bent. At night it could see with a third eye, and its only ear, on the crown of its head, could even hear how ants run. Ants would be the only thing left, everything else in heaven and earth would have died.”


“I want to make a film called ‘Hostages,’ about animals. A strange thing happened to me. I became closer to animals. And trees, and birds. They’re closer to me than they were, the distance between us has narrowed. I go to the Zone now, all these years, I see a wild boar jumping out of an abandoned human house, and then an elk. That’s what I shoot. I want to make a film, to see everything through the eyes of an animal. ‘What are you shooting?’ people say to me. ‘Look around you. There’s a war on in Chechnya.’ But Saint Francis preached to the birds. He spoke to them as equals. What is these birds spoke to him in their bird language, and it wasn’t he who condescended to them?”



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