ZINKY BOYS

SOVIET VOICES FROM A FORGOTTEN WAR

An affecting, often haunting, compilation of first-person testimony on the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. From 1979-89, Moscow tried, unavailingly, through force of arms to support a puppet regime in a hostile land. But as those who found themselves at the sharp end of the bayonet and lived to share their grim memories with Byelorussian journalist Alexievich make clear, the state conducted the savage conflict in virtual secrecy. The ill-trained, poorly equipped teenage conscripts who did most of the fighting were told only that they were doing their international duty by defending the nation's southern borders against bandits; the realities of mortal combat with mujahideen, of course, were something else again. On the home front, grieving women were obliged to bury dead sons or husbands (who had been shipped back to the USSR in zinc coffins: hence the title) under cover of darkness in graves whose headstones offered no clues as to their untimely ends. Alexievich has traced down a host of officers, enlisted men, doctors, nurses, and civilian workers who served in Afghanistan—as well as those who waited, frequently in vain, for their safe return. Her witnesses tell their stories in brutally honest fashion, recalling the horrors of doing battle with a guerrilla foe; the shame of inflicting casualties on a civilian populace that was integral to the indigenous resistance; behind- the-lines profiteering; widespread drug abuse; how veterans preyed upon new arrivals in country; the shock of being reviled or ignored in the Soviet Union; and the anguish of bereavement without the anodyne of honor. An oral history that has considerable relevance for a superpower whose veterans and citizens are still coming to terms with the involvement in Vietnam.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03415-1

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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