[Unlocked] Twenty Become “ Pillars

[Unlocked] Twenty Become “ Pillars

Discuss this week’s reading. You can start with the questions below, but don’t feel limited to these. Make an effort to answer a question nobody or few people have tackled yet.

  1. Alexievich developed a specific process for gathering and shaping her material. She selects about one-hundred voices from the many people she has interviewed, and of these ten or twenty become “pillars,” whom she will interview many times (Masha Gessen, “The Memory Keeper” The New Yorker). Who are the pillars in Voices from Chernobyl?  What are the major thematic threads in their stories?
  2. Look closely at the shorter sections, which, many readers have argued, present a chorus of voices. What is the tone of those voices, and what themes emerge? Although these voices might at first seem disjointed, can you detect a method or logic in the way Alexievich has arranged them?
  3. Alexievich juxtaposes the voices of men and women, the old and the young, scientists and laypersons, humans and animals. Look for examples of such juxtapositions in the book. You might begin by looking closely at how the voices of the women compare to those of the men. What are the women concerned with? What do the men emphasize or ignore?
  4. In an interview with The Nation, Alexievich was asked, “How does one write a history of sentiments without being sentimental?” In her answer, the author differentiates between emotion and sentimentality. “For me,” she states, “emotion is a path toward self-knowledge, not just an occasion to cry.” Find at least one story in the book that illustrates this point.