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Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by…
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Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets (2013)

by Svetlana Alexievich

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (19)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  Bulgarian (1)  German (1)  All (30)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I promised her that there will be two stories. I want to be a cold-blooded historian, not one who is holding a blazing torch. Let time be the judge. Time is just, but only in the long term... free of our prejudices.

With the aid of contemporary retrospection and selective bias of Soviet literature that made it to the West, my perspective of Soviet Russia has mainly been limited to stories from the disillusioned or the resisting or the downtrodden.

What's particularly interesting from this intimate polyphonic portrait of Soviet culture is the perspective of the true believers of the Soviet system, the ones who have been sent to uninhabitable places for backbreaking work or battles with rudimentary weapons, and yet still believe in the principles of Soviet Russia, the idea they were building something great, something for the future, now squandered by the capitalist aspirations of their selfish descendants.

Of course true believers must exist for such a system to have survived at such a scale (well, widespread fear and human complacency helped) and while I don't necessarily agree with many of their sentiments or beliefs, it's nonetheless a perspective necessary for a more complete picture of Soviet Russia.

The second half of the book crept so slowly towards the twenty-first century that it was a jolt to me when I suddenly realised that this overwhelming misery of the everyday people and the resulting senseless violence that they experience due solely to political ideologies, that all this was something that was still happening in Russia less than a decade ago.

It's so easy to think of history as something that has happened in the past and just think, "Well, those were different times with different people." Many political ideologies may have collapsed or the generation that has lived through it no longer exist, but the aftereffects of this collective suffering are still being felt by the latter generations, actively affecting their lives. No, history is not just in the past but it is something that is still happening now everyday, in Russia and everywhere else. A hopeful but also terrifying reminder. ( )
  kitzyl | Feb 18, 2018 |
A collection of monologues from people who lived through the transition from Communism to Capitalism in the former Soviet Union. There are stories from all walks of life. They tell of a people betrayed yet again by their masters but nevertheless striving for a peaceful life. The curation of the monologues and the presence of the author is more obvious than in Voices from Chernobyl. I learned a lot about Russia of the 80s and 90s -- a very turbulent time. The only omission I could find was that the author did not interview any of the so-called Gangsters who ruled the streets for a time. Many of the other stories mentioned them, so it was a shame none of them wanted to speak. ( )
  questbird | Jan 24, 2018 |
All of the other reviews here are right... it's an amazing book, and it's also incredibly dark and depressing. like one reviewer I skimmed the last few chapters. It's a lot of misery to take in at once. But it's an important testimony and needs to be read and appreciated for what it documents about peoples' lives during and after the Soviet Union. There are no big surprises, except the pounding consistency of the stories. ( )
  bostonbibliophile | Jan 5, 2018 |
This is a unique book- the collected voices of many Russians over many years. The Author has collected peoples' stories told in interviews. With her own voice edited out, it has resulted in a story of Russia and the former USSR that is very personal and very deep.

I am struck of course by the violence and depravity so many in the book describe, which, although must be told as is intertwined with so many aspects of recent history of this place, is just so....visceral. The violence is back to back with hardship and struggle. It's hard to read. But what I did get from this book is a real sense of how a nation of people have had the whole basis of their identities changed- which of course happened when socialism was ousted and capitalism installed.

The propaganda of Soviet times can come across as cheesy from the outside (how could they all fall for that? etc.) but when you read the heartfelt accounts of people who believed in their leaders, believed in the power of the people etc, you really see how much it meant on a personal level to have that collective identity. I haven't properly formulated my thoughts on it yet, but there is also a lot in there about happiness and how it comes about. The fundamental ingredients for it seem to be human connections and a plan (or maybe, hope, or a common goal or purpose). And some accounts in this book about Soviet times certainly show that this is at a loss under capitalism.

There is so much in this book to think on, and I can thoroughly recommend it. ( )
  LovingLit | Sep 11, 2017 |
During the Soviet era I had wondered what life was like behind the iron curtain. Solzhenitsyn provided part of the picture but here Alexievich fills the canvas with a broad portrait of the lives of people from all walks of life. Overall it isn't pretty, especially the slow-motion horror of the Stalin era. Perestroika and the Yeltsin presidency were promising developments yet they came and went, leaving even modest hopes dashed. In any case you are able to see the interior life of the Russian people here in rich detail. The writing is excellent even in translation. ( )
1 vote bkinetic | Aug 25, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Svetlana Alexievichprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alexandrova, AngelinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benech, Sophiesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Braungardt, Ganna-MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cicognini, NadiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mateo, FerranAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rapetti, SergioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rebón, MartaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shayevich, BelaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shayevich, BelaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"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"-- "Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style of oral history, 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. When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the Nobel Prize in Literature, they praised her 'polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,' and cited her for inventing 'a new kind of literary genre.' Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, added that her work comprises 'a history of emotions--a history of the soul'"--… (more)

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