From the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich, comes the first English translation of her latest work, an oral history of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia.
Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive documentary style, Secondhand Time is a monument to the collapse of the USSR, charting the decline of Soviet culture and speculating on what will rise from the ashes of Communism.
As in all her books, Alexievich gives voice to women and men whose stories are lost in the official narratives of nation-states, creating a powerful alternative history from the personal and private stories of individuals.
Svetlana Alexievich was born in the Ukraine in 1948 and grew up in Belarus. As a newspaper journalist, she spent her early career in Minsk compiling first-hand accounts of World War II, the Soviet-Afghan War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Chernobyl meltdown. Her unflinching work—'the whole of our history...is a huge common grave and a bloodbath'—earned her persecution from the Lukashenko regime and she was forced to emigrate. She lived in Paris, Gothenburg and Berlin before returning to Minsk in 2011. She has won a number of prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Prix Médicis, and the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award. In 2015, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Bela Shayevich is a writer, translator and illustrator. Her translations have appeared in journals such as Little Star, St. Petersburg Review, and Calque. She was the editor of n+1 magazine's translations of the Pussy Riot closing statements. Of Alexievich's writing, she says it is 'resounding with nothing but the truth'.
'The force of her work, the source of its power and plausibility, is the choice of a generation (her own) as a major subject and the close attention to its major inflection point, which was the end of the Soviet Union...Her method is the close interrogation of the past through the collection of individual voices; patient in overcoming cliché, attentive to the unexpected, and restrained in the exposition, her writing reaches those far beyond her own experiences and preoccupations, far beyond her generation, and far beyond the lands of the former Soviet Union.' New York Review of Books
'For the past thirty or forty years she's been busy mapping the Soviet and post-Soviet individual. But it's not really a history of events. It's a history of emotions.' Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary, Swedish Academy
'Alexievich builds her narratives about Russian national traumas...by interviewing those who lived them, and immersing herself deeply in their testimonies. But her voice is much more than the sum of their voices.' New Yorker
'[A] masterpiece...a magnificent work of literary art. This vast panorama can justly be regarded I think as the War and Peace of our age.' Age
'It's a meaty read and also incredibly significant and respectful to those whose stories appear in its pages.' Readings
'A mosaic of pain and loss, hope and betrayal, fear and anger. It is profoundly moving. At its heart though is a deep empathy for a people who have experienced some of the worst humanity, yet found a way to cope. It is both inspiring and devastating.' Herald Sun
'Secondhand Time is a majestic portrait of Soviet life.' Australian
'A rich and textured history.' Best Books of 2016, New Zealand Listener
'A deeply empathic oral history of the disintegration of the Soviet Union; open at any page and you will be moved.' Best Non-Fiction...
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