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When I am walking streets of Melbourne, I cannot stop myself from imagining abused children hiding in adult bodies.
When you hear the term "pickup artists," what—or who—do you envision?
It is what Primo Levi described all those years ago. He is wearing a shirt with an image of himself as a child printed on it.
If you're anything like me, you think of men: Slithery, sexist men banded together to forge underground alliances of high-fiving bros, with the solitary shared goal of bedding women.
But thankfully, pickup artistry is beginning to broaden beyond the boys' club.
The prologue goes – Someone is saying: ‘You have to understand: This is not your husband anymore, not a beloved person, but a radioactive object with a strong density of poisoning. Get ahold of yourself.’ And I’m like someone who’s lost her mind: ‘But I love him! Several of my friends who discovered Alexievich post-Nobel (she got the NP last year) said this to me: “She is something else.” That evening a few days ago, she emptied out my office, in a minute, and refilled it with her air. ’ I was by the way in the Ukraine when Chernobyl happened. When this feels like an impossible task, I read Alexievich. “There is no social movement,” Nigel Denning says to me, “around systemic child sexual abuse.
More – None of the doctors knew I was staying with him at night in the bio-chamber. Eleven, clueless, but then the whole country was clueless. I’ve listened to and read most things I can find on Alexievich, every interview Alexievich has given, just about – in English and in Russian – including the one hosted by New York Public Library where Masha Gessen asked about her experience of “extreme fame”. The “we” Alexievich speaks to in her books doesn’t exist, it is created by her address, by the space she makes for the solitary human voice to speak, and be heard, anew. We are so far off as a society in acknowledging the systemic perpetration.” He says, “It’s almost a public shaming of institutions that’s needed. In a sense, it’s like a series of boxes on boxes on boxes.” Remember Lyusya’s husband, the “human nuclear reactor”, from Voices from Chernobyl?
It is not an act of taking, or of re-assembly, or of what Nicolas Rothwell has described, in relation to books of Aboriginal history written by non-indigenous historians, often with great intentions, as works of preservation that always get sucked into processes of cultural dispersion. It was Alexievich who made me ask whether witnessing was more like spending the night with the person in the bio-chamber. There is a window of opportunity around the Royal Commission. The opportunity is to make some kind of meaningful change on a societal level. Two hours of talking to them, maybe two and a half. I felt like I told a story that could be turned into a horror movie. She said, ‘You did really, really well.’ When I came out I had to sleep. Not once in my life did anyone come up to me and say, ‘What’s wrong? My children, when I finally told them, had great fear that I would get sick again.