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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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