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Star Chernobyl (Methuen Modern Fiction) Paperback – March 10, 1988
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Text: English, Russian (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Written the year the disaster occurred, the novel only gains in poignancy because the author was unaware of the dramatic events that would follow. The youngest of three Russian sisters marries a Ukrainian physicist working at the Chernobyl power plant. No particular attention is paid to their having different ethnicities as these were Soviet times. The author shows how the eldest sister, Anastasia, renounces her party membership when the gravity of the Chernobyl disaster becomes clear to her, but there is no suggestion that this will lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union , which happened five years after the book was published.
The numerous excerpts mostly from Soviet sources at the time of the disaster are much more than filler for the novel; they show the scale of the coverup, at least in the initial weeks, in what was supposed to be the Gorbachev era of glasnost.
One senses that the book could have been much longer; at the end of it we still don’t know what has become of the youngest sister, Alenka and her children, or whether Anastasia herself has become one of Chernobyl’s victims in her attempt to rescue them. Perhaps the author wished to leave the reader in the same situation as so many Soviet people at the time, without knowing the fate of people dear to them, and no sense of closure.
Ms. Voznesenskaya could have been better served by the publisher of this English translation of her novel. There are typos in the book. For example, on p.151, an excerpt from a Komsomolskaya Pravda article is rendered as follows: “We would remind you once again, incidents of panic were vary [should be “very”] rare. Calamity is being born [should be “borne”] with dignity”
The author has provided her own footnotes, but the translator really should have provided additional notes for many obscure references. For example, musicians in Ivankov (now Ivankiv) Ukraine sing the following song (p.148): : « Pripyat is where my love is bred / And things get tough when we’re in bed / If his prick won’t take the strain / MAGATE’s where I complain », There is no explanation that MAGATE is the Russian acronym МАГАТЭ, for Международное агентство по атомной энергии (Meždunarodnoe agenstvo atomnoi energii), the Russian name for the International Atomic Energy Agency. On p.175, Anastasia declares; “No Gee Bees could stop me finding Alenushka alive or dead”. Here Gee-Bee probably translates the Russian slang term ‟gebeshnik” (гебeшник) for a KGB operative. It would have been better to use the Russian word with a footnote explaining its meaning. Some reader might take it as a reference to the Gibb Brothers.