Read #131

(translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler)

Three days in the life of Pasha in war-torn Ukraine, as he tries to get across the country from one city to another to rescue a nephew, Sasha, left behind in an orphanage.

While it appears timely, it was actually written as a response to the initial 2014 Russian invasion of the Donbas region of south eastern Ukraine – but rubble is rubble, hunger is hunger and fear is fear.

The descriptions are detailed and intense – using the lack of normal daily things, bread, water, sleep to hammer home the way that war hits the citizens unfortunate enough to be occupying the piece of fought over land at that particular time. What comes through time after time is the helplessness, the chaos, the sense of being trapped and all of it in something itself so senseless.

What Pasha hasn’t banked on, is that adolescent Sasha has learnt a few tricks about survival, while in the orphanage, and both are grateful for his daring and guile more than once, on their return journey.

The blurb talks about Zhadan being “Ukraine’s Kerouac” – and that is in part what encouraged me to buy the book – I have to say I don’t see the comparison. There is a certain humanity and a certain free-wheeling style at times, but beyond that I don’t see it. However, it is a good book and worth reading.

(this is the edition that had 16 or so pages missing in the middle…)

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