Review: The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

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I want to shove this book at everyone I know.

Can I find the right words? I can tell about how I shot. But about how I wept, I can’t. That will be left untold. I know one thing: in war a human being becomes frightening and incomprehensible. How can one understand him? You’re a writer. Think up something yourself. Something beautiful. Without lice and filth, without vomit…Without the smell of vodka and blood…Not so frightening as life…

This is a collection of accounts of Russian women who went through WWII – soldiers of all kinds, partisan fighters, and medical workers mostly, but also washerwomen, bakers, mechanics, civilians…both about the war and what happened afterwards. All of them women whose stories were forgotten; silenced or forced to keep to a certain, more traditional narrative of glory. It’s hardly a traditional war book. No listings of great battles, victories, losses. Only very human, personal stories from the perspective of those who did not get to tell them until then.

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