Book review: Last Witnesses, by Svetlana Alexievich (Amazon / Book Depository) These pictures, these lights. My riches. The treasure of what I lived through… Last Witnesses is the latest work from incomparable Belarusian journalist and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich to be translated from Russian to English. In the vein of her other books, this oral history collects stories told from one of Russia’s immense twentieth … Continue reading Voices of the Second World War’s Children, Curated by Svetlana Alexievich
Book review: In Wartime, by Tim Judah (Amazon / Book Depository) As we came closer to the coast, birds skimmed and whirled. The coastline is always changing here. Sediment and sand constantly form new low islands and sandbanks. Finally, we came to where this branch of the river flows out to the sea. A monument has been erected on the beach and become slightly lopsided. … Continue reading Ukraine Through Personal and Political Lenses
Book review: Savage Feast, by Boris Fishman (Amazon / Book Depository) Food was so valuable that it was a kind of currency—and it was how you showed love. If, as a person on the cusp of thirty, I wished to find sanity, I had to figure out how to temper this hunger without losing hold of what fed it, how to retain a connection to my past … Continue reading Family Stories and Recipes, From Belarus to Brooklyn
Book review: Midnight in Chernobyl, by Adam Higginbotham (Amazon / Book Depository) Senior Lieutenant Alexander Logachev loved radiation the way other men loved their wives. So begins Adam Higginbotham’s exhaustive account of the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster, recounting a blow-by-blow of the unfolding incident and the monumental effects of the aftermath, amidst the context of Soviet politics and the USSR’s place on the world stage. … Continue reading Disaster and After: A Chernobyl Deep Dive
Book review: Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich (Amazon / Book Depository) Sometimes it’s as though I hear his voice. Alive. Even photographs don’t have the same effect on me as that voice. But he never calls out to me . . . not even in my dreams. I’m the one who calls to him. After reading Svetlana Alexievich’s incredible Unwomanly Face of War, I couldn’t … Continue reading Monologues on Chernobyl and What Came After
Book review: My Dead Parents, by Anya Yurchyshyn (Amazon / Book Depository) As the title indicates, this memoir is a bluntly told examination of the lives of the author’s dead parents, focused around her trying to understand them through the lens of discovered materials and interviews. Sentimentality and emotion figure in, but author Anya Yurchyshyn doesn’t mince words in being honest about her complicated feelings … Continue reading Discovering The People Your Parents Were
Book review: Dancing Bears: True Stories About Longing for the Old Days, by Witold Szabłowski Amazon / Book Depository Another version of this book, newly published in its first English translation, has the subtitle “True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny”. That sums up perfectly what it’s about – stories about how and seemingly why humans and trained bears can’t seem to break the … Continue reading What Do Bears and the People of Former Communist Countries Have in Common?
Book review: Almost Home by Filipp Velgach (Amazon / Book Depository) Almost Home is the memoir of Filipp Velgach, an American of Ukrainian heritage. He was recruited to translate in the Ukraine for a group of documentary filmmakers in 2013, at the time of major unrest and protests revolving around then-president Yanukovych and Ukraine’s relationship with Russia. These are complicated politics, and even while following the … Continue reading Losing its Collective Mind