Stalking the Atomic City by Markiyan Kamysh

Stalking the Atomic City: Life Among the Decadent and the Depraved of Chornobyl by Markiyan Kamysh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delirious, dangerous, and rather intoxicating, Stalking The Atomic City tells of the author’s visits to the ‘exclusion zone’ that exists about Chornobyl. There’s more than a little bit of Trainspotting about it but also I think a kind of longing for life to be lived on one’s own terms, to find a place within the world that can be known in a way that nobody else has ever known it. There’s ennui in it, there’s a discomfort, a sharp, sharp edge of unease, and something rather, utterly fascinating.

I loved this. I’ve been trying to read more translated fiction and was really interested in what this book might do. I know very little about the topic and the area and so, in a way, Kamysh guided me as much as he does the people he takes into the exclusion zone. In a way though, his guidance becomes a kind of manifesto for visiting the zone as much as staying away from it. Come with him. Stay away. Look twice. Close your eyes.

Stylistically, it’s pretty distinct. I suspect you’ll either love it or hate it but you need to experience it. Rich, wild, contradictory sentences spike up against each other. Tenses play against each other, rules are forgotten, perspectives shift – and sometimes all of this happens all at once. There’s a wild edge here, one that tries to evoke something very particular as much as it shies away, self-consciously aware at what its trying to do. I liked it a lot. I’m always on the side of literature that tries to be something, to do something, to break new ground, to form new shapes. And the shape that Stalking The Atomic City makes is intoxicating.

It’s relevant to add here that I share a publisher with Kamysh and that I requested a copy of this to review through Netgalley. My thanks to Pushkin for the approval. The Stalking City is published by them in July. Make a note.

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