Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christa Wolf - Accident

An East German writer, awaiting a call from the hospital where her brother is undergoing brain surgery, instead receives news of a massive nuclear accident at Chernobyl, one thousand miles away. In the space of a single day, in a potent, lyrical stream of thought, the narrator confronts both mortality and life and above all, the import of each moment lived-open, as Wolf reveals, to infinite analysis.

Comment: I've picked this book for the reading challenge I'm in this year. I had it in my shelf, it was part of a collection of four an uncle gave me but I have to be honest I never paid much attention to it, except I knew it was a short book (only 90 pages) and it suited precisely November's theme for a book less than 200 pages and considering I had to read something, I chose this one, knowing nothing about it. I've read the synopsis in the back cover and I guessed it would be more literature than fiction but I wasn't aware it was about such a decisive moment in current history.

The book is about a female writer, she's doing her daily chores and wondering, thinking about what it meant the Chernobyl disaster to the world, to herself, to the ones close by. It's like she's having a conversation while debating things, all done in a monologue.

This book hasn't got many pages, but they're full of symbolism, of references to the Chernobyl disaster.
This book is narrated in the first person but as the protagonist is having a monologue and she's talking to someone I'd say it's one of the few books done in the second person that I've read so far. It looks complicated but it really isn't.
The protagonist is doing her daily routine, her house chores and she's talking about the impact of the disaster to those around, to her and her family, to those who only hear it in the news. It's a very philosophical approach about what it means and the consequences it will have. The thing that still stuck to my head about it is when she says so many food is going to the garbage because she doesn't know it the fumes didn't reach the place where she lives and how dangerous it would be to just gamble that.
The protagonist talks about many more details and the decisions taken afterwards for those involved. It was an interesting summary of what it meant, socially, politically and morally for sure.
Now, it is interesting to know about it, but I have to confess many times the way things are said seemed a bit boring to me. I get it that it's meant to be philosophical, to make the reader think and imagine the author doing such mundane things while so many miles away many people suffered so much, it's meant to make us ponder the dichotomy of that reality, but I had to stop reading many times to find the will to keep reading. Many passages were very long, graphically, and made the reading boring and tiring at times.
So, in the end, a thoughtful reading but not very exciting. It makes its point, though. I've never thought about that disaster (I was too young at the time) but the consequences are still devastating.
Interesting book for its theme but not very seductive in terms of writing.

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