Sevastopol Sketches Leo Tolstoy Riding on the success of “Childhood,” his first work, burning with patriotism and thirsting for adventure, the young Leo Tolstoy, ardent army officer, requested a transfer to Sevastopol during the Crimean War. His presence there did not win the war for the Russians. But it did launch Tolstoy’s career, provide him […]Read more "“Sevastopol Sketches” by Leo Tolstoy"
In this collection of tales, in turns lyrical and brutal, Oleg Ermakov, probably Russia’s foremost writer on the Soviet war in Afghanistan, depicts the war from multiple points of view: a boy on a date a couple of days before he heads off to basic training, a raw recruit forced to commit an act he […]Read more "“Afghan Tales” by Oleg Yermakov"
What can I say about Politkovskaya that I haven’t already said? Maybe that this book, written specifically for publication abroad, is perhaps the most foreigner-friendly of her works. Unlike “A Dirty War,” which is a compilation of her early articles on the second Chechen war, or later books such as “A Russian Diary,” which are […]Read more "“Putin’s Russia” by Anna Politkovskaya"
The Chechen wars (1994-6 and 1999-2009, sort of) were brutal for everyone involved. But for Chechen women, they were particularly devastating. “Allah’s Angels” documents their participation and their suffering. Getting hard data about almost any aspect of the Chechen wars can be an exercise in frustration–even things that are supposedly monitored carefully by the government, […]Read more "“Allah’s Angels: Chechen Women in War” by Paul J. Murphy"
In “A Small Corner of Hell,” Anna Politkovskaya continues her reportage of the Second Chechen War. While “A Dirty War,” the first collection of her articles, conveys them in more or less their original form, “A Small Corner of Hell,” while still divided into individual reports, is a more coherent, book-like narrative, with large sections […]Read more "“A Small Corner of Hell” by Anna Politkovskaya"
Anyone tempted to say that heroes no longer exist need look no further than opposition Russian journalists to be proven wrong. Although there are many heroes and martyrs amongst that group, the name Anna Politkovskaya is particularly sacred. A furious truth-teller, Politkovskay always had the courage of her convictions, descending into chaos, corruption, and the […]Read more "“A Dirty War” by Anna Politkovskaya"
War and Peace (Vintage Classics) I feel like an idiot even thinking about writing a review of “War and Peace,’ but since I just re-read it, by God I’m getting a review out of it, and adding it to my official book count. So what to say about this stunning, confounding, confusing, maddening, amazing work […]Read more "“War and Peace,” Pevear and Volokhonsky Translation"
“It’s very frightening,” Babchenko tells us, “that the war is in color.” Not black-and-white, like the heroic WWII movies he and his fellow soldiers had grown up on, but in the brilliant colors of the beautiful Caucasus mountains, where not one but two appallingly brutal wars have been fought in the past two decades. In […]Read more "“One Soldier’s War” by Arkady Babchenko"
In “Zinky Boys,” Alexievich weaves together interviews with those who have been affected by the Soviet war in Afghanistan–soldiers, yes, but also doctors and nurses, civilian contractors, and, most tragically of all, the mothers and widows left behind–to create a document that is heartbreaking, harrowing, and utterly damning. Those who ended up in Afghanistan did […]Read more "“Zinky Boys” by Svetlana Alexievich"