Tobie Mathew

Power Failure

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster

By

Bantam Press 516pp £20 order from our bookshop

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future

By

Allen Lane 420pp £20 order from our bookshop

Hot on the heels of Serhii Plokhy’s 2018 account of the Chernobyl nuclear accident come two new books about the catastrophe. Such spates are usually anniversary-led, but on this occasion the mini-surge appears to be down to coincidence, particularly given that all three works were years in the making. Clearly, something about the disaster still fascinates us. Ostensibly, it’s the drama of the story itself – a devastating event of potentially world-ending proportions, one that involved enormous folly at the top and great heroism on the ground. But as governments grow more and more concerned about carbon emissions, energy usage and the natural environment, the subject matter is becoming increasingly topical.

Stories of apocalyptic events have a long global history, and yet all are essentially morality plays, setting forth how the wickedness of humankind might bring about the end of time. Works on ‘the world’s greatest nuclear disaster’, therefore, serve as cautionary tales, reminding us that material progress comes with spiritual and environmental costs and keeping us conscious that the more we attempt to refashion the world to suit our own needs, the closer the hand on the Doomsday Clock moves to midnight.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Since Dylan’s commercial and ideological heyday, the intrusion of sociology, semiology and post-structuralist thou… ,
    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,