Night Night
Illustration by Catherine Martinovich


Victor Martinovich
time 13 minutes

Europe, the near future. One morning, the sun doesn’t rise for some mysterious reason, and most sources of energy lose their properties. Cities regress to the early medieval condition, and Herodotus’s Histories seems to shed more light on ‘dark Europe’ than the local newspapers with their fake news. The hero of Night, The Bookman, decides to sell off his most valuable possession – a huge library of books – and use the income to make the long journey to Nepal, where his girlfriend was when the skies became dark. In the prologue, we meet The Bookman and his girlfriend, and observe the first signs of the impending ‘dark times’.

There is no expectation without anxiety. I had been waiting for this call for eleven months, and that was still when the phrase “to wait for eleven months” had a semblance of meaning. The phone rang only when I had finally lost all hope. This is how it all began.

What was I doing at that time? It won’t be easy to explain. After all, what is loneliness? It is a state when nothing is happening to you that you haven’t conceived yourself. Correction: I am not alone. I have Gerda. But the girl had already had her meal and her walk, and was soundly asleep in my bed, where, as a matter of fact, she wasn’t allowed to sleep. I know. In Belarusian, “dog” is a masculine noun,


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“Chernobyl”, Episode 1. Image courtesy of HBO Polska

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How HBO’s “Chernobyl” Ignores the Nuances of Soviet Language
Victor Martinovich

As a Belarusian who grew up in the Byelorussian SSR (BSSR), I remember how I first got to know about the Chernobyl tragedy.

I was on the streets in our communal yard riding my bicycle. My mother opened the window and called me home. I asked what had happened, but she loudly repeated: “Just come home!” At the flat, she explained to me that something was wrong with the weather. The following day, she asked me to eat a piece of black bread with two drops of iodine on it. She was a medic, and somehow knew about the possible thyroid problems that could arise as a result of radiation exposure. What she didn’t know – something that no nuclear energy specialist in Soviet Minsk ever explained publicly – was that liquid iodine bought from the pharmacy is not effective against radiation exposure. That’s why it was no surprise that across five years of standard medical inspection at my school, the doctor diagnosed in me an enlarging thyroid and ordered me to have a check-up every year. By the age of 21, I had lost my first schoolmate who was with me on that same communal yard during April 1986.

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