This essay discusses Svetlana Alexievich’s book Voices from Chernobyl as a complicated figuration of the Russian and Soviet literary traditions. A comparison is drawn with the Japanese documentary Little Voices from Fukushima (2015) by the antinuclear activist Hitomi Kamanaka. The comparison accentuates the literary nature of Alexievich’s philosophical pessimism and its indebtedness to an antithetical paradigm (Soviet voluntarism versus Russian passivity) in its refusal to entertain the possibility of another future.

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