This is collage book (kind of, maybe) from the Belorussian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich. This is the first of her works I’ve read, but I think it’s more or less representative of the kinds of work she does across different subject fields. In this book, she is collecting and editing small scenes of witness of WWII (The Great Patriotic War) by adults in the middle age, remembering their experiences from when they were children. The main range of these pieces are 1-3 pages, but there’s a longer piece at the end by someone who was 20 at the time and clearly has a more fully realized picture of what they witnessed.
The stories are edited and range in tone from horrified and traumatic to oddly nostalgic and wistful. This range is fascinating, because while the war was truly terrible and the Soviet Union experience some of the truly worst experiences in terms of civilian involvement, this range mirrors my own sense of how resilient, wondrous, and remarkable children are even in the face of terror. But also many, if not really all when it comes down to it, are heartbreaking in their own specific ways.
There’s 100 pieces in this book, and it’s about 290 pages, so you can imagine that the reading experience is quite disjointed and fractured. This both makes sense and is probably necessary to the creation and existence of the book, but the effect is that the book is difficult to read and find any real pacing to it. I think this would be fine if I had read it as an audiobook or as something I turned to one to two pieces per day or a few months. But it was a library book, and it was less easy to handle that fractured feel to it. Not that expected it to be “fun” to read, but finding any kind of rhythm was difficult.