Pub Date: 2016
Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets
by Svetlana Alexievich
"November rains and a stormy outlook. Time to plunge into a contradictory reading spree—first Svetlana Alexievich's extraordinary work, Secondhand Time, an oral history that encompasses every emotion from extreme sorrow to the most tender love." ~ Louise Erdrich
When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the Nobel Prize, it cited her for inventing a new kind of literary genre, describing her work as a history of emotions—a history of the soul. Alexievich s distinctive documentary style, combining extended individual monologues with a collage of voices, records the stories of ordinary women and men who are rarely given the opportunity to speak, whose experiences are often lost in the official histories of the nation.
In Secondhand Time, Alexievich chronicles the demise of communism. Everyday Russian citizens recount the past thirty years, showing us what life was like during the fall of the Soviet Union and what it s like to live in the new Russia left in its wake. Through interviews spanning 1991 to 2012, Alexievich takes us behind the propaganda and contrived media accounts, giving us a panoramic portrait of contemporary Russia and Russians who still carry memories of oppression, terror, famine, massacres but also of pride in their country, hope for the future, and a belief that everyone was working and fighting together to bring about a utopia. Here is an account of life in the aftermath of an idea so powerful it once dominated a third of the world.
A magnificent tapestry of the sorrows and triumphs of the human spirit woven by a master, Secondhand Time tells the stories that together make up the true history of a nation. Through the voices of those who confided in her, The Nation writes, Alexievich tells us about human nature, about our dreams, our choices, about good and evil in a word, about ourselves.
Praise for Svetlana Alexievich andSecondhand Time:"There are many worthwhile books on the post-Soviet period and Putin's ascent. . . . But the nonfiction volume that has done the most to deepen the emotional understanding of Russia during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union of late is Svetlana Alexievich's oral history Secondhand Time." ~ David Remnick, The New Yorker
"Like the greatest works of fiction, Secondhand Time is a comprehensive and unflinching exploration of the human condition. . . . In its scope and wisdom, Iis comparable to War and Peace." ~ The Wall Street Journal
"Already hailed as a masterpiece across Europe, Secondhand Time is an intimate portrait of a country yearning for meaning after the sudden lurch from Communism to capitalism in the 1990s plunged it into existential crisis." ~ The New York Times
"There's been nothing in Russian literature as great or personal or troubling as Secondhand Time since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, nothing as necessary and overdue. . . . This is the kind of history, otherwise almost unacknowledged by today's dictatorships, that matters." ~The Christian Science Monitor