Svetlana Alexievich brings together the voices of dozens of witnesses to the collapse of the USSR in an attempt to chart the disappearance of a culture and to surmise what new kind of man may emerge from the rubble. Fashioning a singular, polyphonic literary form by combining extended monologues with a collage of voices, Alexievich creates a brilliant and unique portrait of post-Soviet society out of the stories of ordinary women and men.
Reviewed by Christian Tyler in Slightly Foxed Issue 60.
Histories of the Soul
These histories of the soul, as Alexievich calls them, are built up like portrait paintings. Each piece of testimony adds a layer to the canvas. They are litanies of suffering, repetitive but mesmerizing. And what emerges is a remarkably coherent picture. Even when, as in Second-Hand Time, the narrators fall into two camps – those who regret the collapse of the USSR and those who rejoice at it – the sentiments on each side are consistent, a guarantee of their essential truth . . .
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 60, Winter 2018
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