Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich
First English Translation
by Bela Shayevich on May 24, 2016
Random House Source: ARC from Random House via Netgalley
“The magnum opus and latest work from Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—a symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia. In Secondhand Time, Alexievich chronicles the demise of communism. Everyday Russian citizens recount the past thirty years, showing us what life was like during the fall of the Soviet Union and what it’s like to live in the new Russia left in its wake. Through interviews spanning 1991 to 2012, Alexievich takes us behind the propaganda and contrived media accounts, giving us a panoramic portrait of contemporary Russia and Russians who still carry memories of oppression, terror, famine, massacres—but also of pride in their country, hope for the future, and a belief that everyone was working and fighting together to bring about a utopia. Hereis an account of life in the aftermath of an idea so powerful it once dominated a third of the world.” Source: Penguin Random House.
“We sit atop the ruins of socialism like it’s the aftermath of war.”
One of the best books I’ve ever read. THE most personally touching and relevant book I’ve EVER read. A book that penetrates the soul of my being and explains me to myself. (more…)
The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller
First English Translation
by Philip Boehm on May 10, 2016
Macmillan Source: I bought it
“From the winner of the Nobel Prize hailed as the laureate of life under totalitarianism, a haunting early novel of surveillance and paranoia. Romania—the last months of the Ceausescu regime. Adina is a young schoolteacher. Paul is a musician. Clara works in a wire factory. Pavel is Clara’s lover. But one of them works for the secret police and is reporting on the rest of the group.” Source: Macmillan.
Perhaps I was expecting a bit much of this book in imagining it would touch my soul in a most profound and resonating way. See, The Fox Was Ever the Hunter is the story of a teacher’s life (1) during the last few year’s of Ceausescu’s communist regime (2; 1980s – place and decade of my birth), and moreover, it’s written by a Romanian, also an emigre (3). Considering that’s 3 for 3, I naively assumed this would somehow be the story of my life, the conundrum of my dual-identity explained, the nostalgia for a horrific yet clearer, more certain time expressed in all its contradictory complexity. (more…)
Still, the more I thought about it, the more I realized by not writing this post, I was practicing a favorite strategy of mine: avoidance. I mean, the things that are hardest to write are probably the most worth it to attempt. And this time, to write anything at all, I found myself compelled into a variation of the theme Top 10 Humorous Books – a meditation of sorts on my own relationship with humor, told through one of my favorite books of all time, The Master and Margaritaby Mikhail Bulgakov. (more…)