July 01, 2012

Chernobyl, Chechnya and a bit of Scifi

Chernobyl, Chechnya and a bit of Scifi

It’s at moments like this, when you’re trying to take your vacation in a militarily controlled nuclear disaster zone – for which, I might add, there is no proper guidebook – that you must be more than normally willing to expose yourself as a fool in the service of your goals.

his quote sums up so much about this wonderful, hilarious, grim, offbeat and powerful book. Based on the conceit of creating a tourist’s guide to the world’s most polluted places, starting with Chernobyl, it is a tour de force exposé of the waste and havoc we cause with our industrial lives, in ways we hardly expect and prefer not to think about.

But of course the book is much more. It is also a tribute to the average people who live at or near these places, working in them, enduring them, cleaning them up. And Blackwell’s writing is so wonderfully self-effacing and observant, so ripe with stunning turns of phrase, that it is – despite its disturbing subject matter – a delight to read.

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