Reviews

Women at War

Michael Hayward

The Soviet journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 215. As a result, Alexievich’s books have received renewed attention in the West, with her first book (Random House), being given a new translation into English in 217 by the husband-and-wife team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The Unwomanly Face of War is an oral history of World War II (known by most Russians as the Great Patriotic War), told by the Russian women who fought in it. To quote from the front flap, “these women—more than a million in total—were nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners and snipers.” Alexievich tracks down the survivors everywhere in Russia, at “the most diverse addresses—Moscow, Kiev, the town of Apsheronsk in the Krasnodar region, Vitebsk, Volgograd, Yalutorovsk, Suzdal, Galich, Smolensk…”—and persuades them to talk about their experiences. Many of them would rather forget the horrors they witnessed and participated in, but most of them volunteered to fight, and all are immensely proud of their role in defending “the Motherland” from the invading German forces. Alexievich is a wonderful proxy for the reader, being both fascinated and appalled by the realities of war. She listens with sympathy to the women’s stories of deprivation and death, and the horrors of hand-to-hand fighting on the front line: “Not for a human being… They beat, they stab with a bayonet, they strangle each other. They break each other’s bones. There’s howling, shouting. Moaning. And that crunching… That crunching! Impossible to forget it…” And equally important to remember.

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The 19th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest

The writing contest whose name is almost as long as the entries! Deadline is May 20, 2024.

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