Zinky Boys By Svetlana Alexievich Essay

722 words - 3 pages

“I shot up an Afghan wedding, I got the happy couple, the bride and groom. I’m not sorry for them – I’ve lost my friend.” Gruesome stories fill the early pages of Zinky Boys – somehow giving a warning for the faint-hearted on the nature of the book. Svetlana Alexievich’s diary make up the first – and last – chapter of the book, recalling her interaction with the people involved in or linked to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The book is laden with testimonies of soldiers, mothers, and civilian workers who were involved in the war. Zinky Boys does not have the regular structure of a book, each chapter goes on without a clear flow, tied together with phone calls between Alexievich and someone she called her “leading character”. There is no commentary written, only stories after stories, that more often jump back and forth between soldiers’, mothers’, doctors’ without a structure. The book stands out, through the unorthodox way of writing. The readers will be kept at the edge of their seats, trying to grasp what will come after.
The soldiers’ stories were brutal. Horrifying pictures shown in Vietnam-era movies such as Apocalypse Now or Platoon tend to give goosebumps, but the stories written here give shocks, a sense of disgust, even to the point that you just want to stop reading because it was plain horrifying. There is this unexplainable feeling that you get from reading the soldiers’ stories of how arms were hacked off and eyes gouged out. Alexievich seems not to give any restrictions on how the soldiers write the stories, and in return, we get the war’s reality. Even when the soldiers were not going out on an operation, lives turned out to be just as bad. New recruits were often subjected to humiliation and beating by the ‘grandads’ – soldiers with more experience. “…when the dembels took everything of any value off us, including our boots…” the story came from a private who had just arrived in Afghanistan. Morales were low, due to the poorly managed Soviet logistics, to the point that soldiers had to sell their ammunition just to get their hands on a biscuit.
“What were we doing there?”,...

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