Half-lives, Half-truths

Svetlana Alexievich and the nuclear imagination.

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Reflecting on Voices from Chernobyl for the South Africa PEN essay series.
18 August 2016.

In my twenties I worked for a while as an usher at a small cinema in Edinburgh. My job was to tear tickets, sit through the screening to make sure that projection and sound went ok, then clear up any trash. It was a beautifully pure way of absorbing film: you never paid; you never chose. You never worried whether the person next to you was enjoying it. You were alone, dressed in black, invisible.

I watched hundreds of films in those dark winter afternoons – from Korea and Cameroon, Iran and Italy, Russia and Romania – most of which I have never seen any trace of since. It was an education. One was about a group of three young anti-capitalists who break into the homes of rich businessmen and leave messages that “The Fat Years Are Over” – this is the original German title. At some point the good-looking threesome (they are also in a love triangle) end up kidnapping some heartless industrialist. They take him to a remote cabin and try some political re-education, intent on making him see the error of his ways. (It turns out, of course, that he was once a passionate anarchist in his youth.)
I can’t remember how the film ends, but this narrative premise – this fantasy of abducting the powerful and forcing them into dialogue – is one that many frustrated citizens must indulge in at some point… [Read more]

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About hedley1980

i was born 24 february 1980 in johannesburg i found myself in a situation
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