ZINKY BOYS

SOVIET VOICES FROM A FORGOTTEN WAR

An affecting, often haunting, compilation of first-person testimony on the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. From 1979-89, Moscow tried, unavailingly, through force of arms to support a puppet regime in a hostile land. But as those who found themselves at the sharp end of the bayonet and lived to share their grim memories with Byelorussian journalist Alexievich make clear, the state conducted the savage conflict in virtual secrecy. The ill-trained, poorly equipped teenage conscripts who did most of the fighting were told only that they were doing their international duty by defending the nation's southern borders against bandits; the realities of mortal combat with mujahideen, of course, were something else again. On the home front, grieving women were obliged to bury dead sons or husbands (who had been shipped back to the USSR in zinc coffins: hence the title) under cover of darkness in graves whose headstones offered no clues as to their untimely ends. Alexievich has traced down a host of officers, enlisted men, doctors, nurses, and civilian workers who served in Afghanistan—as well as those who waited, frequently in vain, for their safe return. Her witnesses tell their stories in brutally honest fashion, recalling the horrors of doing battle with a guerrilla foe; the shame of inflicting casualties on a civilian populace that was integral to the indigenous resistance; behind- the-lines profiteering; widespread drug abuse; how veterans preyed upon new arrivals in country; the shock of being reviled or ignored in the Soviet Union; and the anguish of bereavement without the anodyne of honor. An oral history that has considerable relevance for a superpower whose veterans and citizens are still coming to terms with the involvement in Vietnam.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03415-1

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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