NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME
When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the Nobel Prize, it cited her for inventing a new kind of literary genre, describing her work as a history of emotions a history of the soul. Read more...
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NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POSTANDPUBLISHERS WEEKLY NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYTIME
When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the Nobel Prize, it cited her for inventing a new kind of literary genre, describing her work as a history of emotions a history of the soul. Alexievich s distinctive documentary style, combining extended individual monologues with a collage of voices, records the stories of ordinary women and men who are rarely given the opportunity to speak, whose experiences are often lost in the official histories of the nation.
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. Here is an account of life in the aftermath of an idea so powerful it once dominated a third of the world.
A magnificent tapestry of the sorrows and triumphs of the human spirit woven by a master, Secondhand Time tells the stories that together make up the true history of a nation. Through the voices of those who confided in her, The Nation writes, Alexievich tells us about human nature, about our dreams, our choices, about good and evil in a word, about ourselves.
Praise for Svetlana Alexievich andSecondhand Time
There are many worthwhile books on the post-Soviet period and Putin s ascent. . . . But the nonfiction volume that has done the most to deepen the emotional understanding of Russia during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union of late is Svetlana Alexievich s oral history Secondhand Time. David Remnick, The New Yorker
Like the greatest works of fiction, Secondhand Timeis a comprehensive and unflinching exploration of the human condition. . . . In its scope and wisdom, Secondhand Timeis comparable toWar and Peace. The Wall Street Journal
Already hailed as a masterpiece across Europe, Secondhand Timeis an intimate portrait of a country yearning for meaning after the sudden lurch from Communism to capitalism in the 1990s plunged it into existential crisis. The New York Times
There s been nothing in Russian literature as great or personal or troubling asSecondhand Timesince Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn sThe Gulag Archipelago, nothing as necessary and overdue. . . . This is the kind of history, otherwise almost unacknowledged by today s dictatorships, that matters. The Christian Science Monitor
In this spellbinding book, Svetlana Alexievich orchestrates a rich symphony of Russian voices telling their stories of love and death, joy and sorrow, as they try to make sense of the twentieth century. J. M. Coetzee"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-04-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Alexievich (Voices from Chernobyl), a Ukrainian-born Belarusian writer and winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, documents the last days of the Soviet Union and the transition to capitalism in a soul-wrenching “oral history” that reveals the very different sides of the Russian experience. Revealing the interior life of “Homo sovieticus” and giving horror-laden reports of life under capitalist oligarchy, Alexievich’s work turns Solzhenitsyn inside out and overpowers recent journalistic accounts of the era. Readers must possess steely nerves and a strong desire to get inside the Soviet psyche in order to handle the blood, gore, and raw emotion. For more than 30 years Alexievich has interviewed then-Soviets and ex-Soviets for this and previous books, encountering her subjects on public squares, in lines, on trains, and in their kitchens over tea. She spends hours recording conversations, sometimes returning years later, and always trying to go beyond the battered and distrusted communal pravda to seek the truths hidden within individuals. Her subjects argue with and lie to themselves; nearly everyone talks about love and loss in the context of war, hunger, betrayal, financial ruin, and emotional collapse. Yet with little intrusion from Alexievich and Shayevich’s heroic translation, each voice stands on its own, joining the tragic polyphony that unfolds chapter by chapter and gives expression to intense pain and inner chaos. (June)