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All That is Solid Melts into Air

by Darragh McKeon

In filmish episodes I was taken to the area of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. I was repelled by the way the (Party) officials diminished its importance, anxious for those who lived through it, greatly underestimating the consequences. Flashbacks into the past of those involved also gave me an insight into the Communist regime and the resilience of those who dared to oppose it. Softened by love it is still a haunting, gripping story.

Extract

Grigory looked out over the milk-white plains, out towards the mountains that were responsible for the giant’s eternal torment, and he walked to the immense, unlikely rocks, the imprisoned figures, and placed a hand on the leader, reaching no higher than the top of the sole of his imaginary sandal, and thought what luck it was to come across such a thing, to have a childhood story made real and immediate, and he knew that this phase of his life was soon at an end, that in a couple of months they would be stationed in a military hospital, then university again, and his life in medicine would fully begin, and his thoughts turned to his former comrades, strung up on beams and boughs back in their camp, what glories they had missed, cutting short their young lives through desperation, and Grigory dissolved then into a river of tears, his body hunched against the stone figures, his head bent towards his waist, his arms crossed over his crown, and it was such a relief, finally, to feel the onrush of compassion, to confirm his indifference to a hanging corpse was merely a method of self-protection he had to cultivate.
And this realization caused him to break down even further, to flounder in a sea of emotion, understanding that the internal thrust of who he was would survive any conditioning, that as much as he might try to dull himself into harshness, the indifference of the world, he would never be truly absolved.

Parallels

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
Erin Brockovich - the film
 

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