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Friday, August 16, 2019

Second Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets (2013) by Svetlana Alexievich


Book Review
Second Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets (2013)
by Svetlana Alexievich

  I can't get enough of 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich.  Her books take the form of extensive interviews with dozens, maybe hundreds of individual sources, each book tackles a different subject, this book is about the fall of the Soviet Union and its aftermath. The overwhelming theme is regret and a sense of nostalgia for the loss of the Soviet state.

  The regret and nostalgia is intermixed with the stories of many who suffered greviously at the hands of the state during the Soviet period, who survived and eventually were able to access their files and figure out which among their friends and neighbors denounced them.  Victims and executioners, that is a phrase that reccurs frequently.

  Another frequent topic is the presence of salami in the stores after the fall of Communism, "We were no longer equal, but there was salami in the stores."    The voices of the losers out number those of the winners- just like life; but there are no interviews with oligarchs or the thuggish mafia who serve as the bogeymen to the normal people she interviews.

  Many of the most horrific stories come from the events in the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia and the Caucuses, where Russians and Armenians were ethnically cleansed in horrifying fashion.  

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