Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Second paragraph of third chapter:

— Мы всё это учтём, — сказал наконец Нунан, дорисовав десятого для ровного счёта чёртика и захлопнув блокнот. — В самом деле, безобразие…“We’ll keep all that in mind, Valentine,” Noonan said finally, finishing his tenth doodle for an even count and slamming his notebook shut. “You’re right, this is a disgrace.”

One of the classic sf works of Eastern Europe, well indeed of the world, which I realised that I had never actually read in English – when living in Germany in 1986 I bought a German translation, which is probably the most recent work of any length that I have read in German.

I enjoyed it more than I expected. There have been some notable incomprehensible alien incursion stories since, thinking of Ian McDonald, Jeff VanderMeer and Tade Thompson in particular, but this is the first really detailed exploration of what the SF Encyclopedia calls a Zone. The aliens have come and gone, leaving obscure and dangerous objects for us to look at and attempt to exploit; the effect this has on the immediate human society of those who try to explore it is brutally depicted. It’s interesting that the characters are coded as Americans, even in the original Russian. It’s also mercifully short. You can get it here.

This was my top unread sf book. Next on that pile is A Marvellous Light, by Freya Marske.