[from The Guardian]
I think it can be safely said that for the majority of Russians, over the greater part of recorded history, to have been born in that country has not been to draw one of the winning tickets in the lottery of life. A true history of its people need be no more than the howls of despair of millions of voices, punctuated by moments of incredible tenderness, courage and grim humour.
Which is more or less the Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich’s technique: her books are collections of hundreds of interviews with people who have been rolled over by the various incarnations of the Russian state. In Chernobyl Prayer each interview is usually a few pages long, and reads as a monologue – which is how they are described in the contents pages. “Monologue on how easy it is to return to dust”; “Monologue on how some completely unknown thing can worm its way into you”, and so on.