Since the nuclear disaster in April 1986, Chornobyl remains a toxic, forbidden wasteland. As with all dangerous places, it attracts a wild assortment of adventurers who feel called to climb over the barbed wire illegally and witness the aftermath for themselves. Breaking the law here is a pilgrimage: a defiant, sacred experience mingled with punk rock, thrash metal, death, decay, washed down with a swig of high-proof Vodka. Author Markiyan Kamysh grew up with intimate knowledge of the devastation of the nuclear plant's explosion—his father was an on-site liquidator after the disaster and died of exposure when Markiyan was young. This, too, drives him in searching for meaning in the beauty and chaos of what remains.
The very premise of Ukrainian writer Markiyan Kamysh’s book [is] stark-staring remarkable ... Stalking the Atomic City,...details in catchy and often evocative language Kamysh’s many clandestine visits to the Exclusion Zone ... He manages to find comrades in this daftest of all adventures, and amidst the rivers of cheap alcohol, the parade of filthy sleeping bags, and the absolutely endless amount of smoking...there are surprisingly frequent moments of happy memories ... There’s a forensic reading that makes all this look like exactly the necrotic grandstanding it certainly was. Bookstores are full of titles extolling the virtues of camping out in the wild, and that makes such titles toxic for a certain rabid strand of anomie-drenched social media orphans, hence the evident need in Stalking the Atomic City to go further, to corrupt the source, to extoll the virtues of camping … in a nuclear wasteland. And if there’s a higher, non-forensic reading, some nonsense about finding salvation even at the extremities of tragedy, here’s hoping readers don’t take it seriously enough to think about booking a trip.
Evocative ... Though some of Kamysh’s stylistic mannerisms grate, he captures the zone’s strange mix of beauty and bleakness with precision. It’s a captivating study of 'the most exotic place on Earth.'
Raw ... Kamysh paints a picture—and includes his own photographs—of a stark, surreal landscape ... Translators Leliv and Costigan-Humes capture Kamysh’s angry, sometimes hauntingly rueful prose. A visceral, graphic report from dystopia.