Boys in Zinc by Svetlana Alexievich, Andrew Bromfield (trans.)

By Svetlana Alexievich, Andrew Bromfield (trans.)

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My mother discouraged me from doing it and none of my friends supported me. ‘Everyone’s keeping quiet,’ they said. ’ So now I’ve told you … For the first time I’ve tried to say what I think. It feels strange. A private, motorized infantry I’m afraid to start telling you about it. Those shadows will pounce on me again … Every day … Every day out there I used to tell myself: ‘I’m a fool, a fool. ’ Especially at night I used to get thoughts like that, when I wasn’t working. But during the day they were different: how can I help everyone?

It’s because of a concussion … A meadow warbler, for instance, I simply can’t hear it for the life of me. ’ ‘You fire first, and then you check to see if it’s a woman or a child. ’ ‘Who are we in the Soviet Union? Prostitutes? We know that. If I could get a job in a new cooperative company at least. And the men? What about the men? ’ ‘The general talked about our international duty, about defending our southern borders. He got quite maudlin: “Get them some boiled sweets. They’re just children. ” ’ ‘The officer was young.

Close to the fear of death – the attraction of death … No need to invent anything. There are passages everywhere in the great books. In every one. ) the aggressive naivety of our boys, of yesterday’s final-year Soviet schoolboys, is astounding. But what I want from them is a dialogue of one human being with another human being. Well, after all, in what language do we talk with ourselves and others? I like the language of conversational speech: it’s unencumbered, it lacks any external, imposed burdens.

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