Accident (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
On April 26, 1986, the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the Ukraine region of the Soviet Union exploded, blowing hot graphite and reactor fuel fragments through the roof of the containment building; the reactor core continued to burn for days. A cloud of radioactive debris containing iodine 131 and cesium contaminated the air, vegetation, soil, water, and living population—both animal and human—throughout Europe. The Soviet authorities did not immediately release information about the nuclear disaster to the rest of the world. It was only after scientists in Scandinavia measured unprecedented radiation levels in the atmosphere that the Soviets revealed the news of the accident and opened the site to world press coverage and scientific investigation. This two-day hesitation in revealing the accident exposed most of an unwarned Europe to dangerous levels of radiation.
Christa Wolf’s novel Accident: A Day’s News, written from June through September of 1986, is a meditation on the immediate and long-term consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. On a larger scale, however, it probes the effects of man’s seemingly insatiable desire to create technology that can control nature. The novel takes place on the day that Europe learned of the “unforeseen accident”: It is a beautiful spring day with all the usual promises of new life and growth. The cherry trees are in blossom. It is a day during which the narrator, unnamed throughout the novel,...
(The entire section is 1736 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Library Journal. CXIV, April 15, 1989, p. 102.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 4, 1989, p. 3.
The Nation. CCXLIX, July 3, 1989, p. 28.
The New York Times. April 12, 1989, p. B2.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, April 23, 1989, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXV, March 3, 1989, p. 84.
(The entire section is 38 words.)