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Authors: Svetlana Alexievich

Tags: #Political Science, #History, #Russia & the Former Soviet Union, #Russian & Former Soviet Union, #Former Soviet Republics, #World, #Europe

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets

BOOK: Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets
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Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets
Svetlana Alexievich
Random House (2016)
Rating: ★★★★☆
Tags: Political Science, History, Russia & the Former Soviet Union, Russian & Former Soviet Union, Former Soviet Republics, World, Europe
Political Sciencettt Historyttt Russia & the Former Soviet Unionttt Russian & Former Soviet Unionttt Former Soviet Republicsttt Worldttt Europettt

NEW YORK TIMES
BESTSELLER • The magnum opus and latest work from Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—a symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia

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 and *Secondhand Time
*

“Like the greatest works of fiction,
Secondhand Time
is a comprehensive and unflinching exploration of the human condition. . . . Alexievich’s tools are different from those of a novelist, yet in its scope and wisdom,
Secondhand Time
is 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. A series of monologues by people across the former Soviet empire, it is Tolstoyan in scope, driven by the idea that history is made not only by major players but also by ordinary people.”

The New York Times
 
“If you want to understand contemporary Russia,
Secondhand Time* is essential reading.”
—Newsday*

“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
*

“[Alexievich’s] longest and most ambitious project to date: an effort to use an oral history of the nineties to understand Soviet and post-Soviet identity.”

The New Yorker
 

“In this spellbinding book, Svetlana Alexievich orchestrates a rich symphony of Russian voices telling their stories of love and death, joy and sorrow, as they try to make sense of the twentieth century.”
—J. M. Coetzee

**

Review

Praise for Svetlana Alexievich and
Secondhand Time
 
“Like the greatest works of fiction,
Secondhand Time
is a comprehensive and unflinching exploration of the human condition. . . . Alexievich’s tools are different from those of a novelist, yet in its scope and wisdom,
Secondhand Time
is 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. A series of monologues by people across the former Soviet empire, it is Tolstoyan in scope, driven by the idea that history is made not only by major players but also by ordinary people talking in their kitchens.”

The New York Times
 
“If you want to understand contemporary Russia,
Secondhand Time* is essential reading.”
—Newsday*

“The most ambitious Russian literary work of art of the century . . . 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. . . . Alexievich’s witnesses are those who haven’t had a say. She shows us from these conversations, many of them coming at the confessional kitchen table of Russian apartments, that it’s powerful simply to be allowed to tell one’s own story. . . . This is the kind of history, otherwise almost unacknowledged by today’s dictatorships, that matters.”
—*The Christian Science Monitor
*

“For her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”
—Nobel Prize Committee
 
“For the past thirty or forty years [Alexievich has] been busy mapping the Soviet and post-Soviet individual, but [her work is] not really about a history of events. It’s a history of emotions . . . a history of the soul.”
—Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy
 

Secondhand Time
[is Alexievich’s] longest and most ambitious project to date: an effort to use an oral history of the nineties to understand Soviet and post-Soviet identity.”

The New Yorker
 
“In this spellbinding book, Svetlana Alexievich orchestrates a rich symphony of Russian voices telling their stories of love and death, joy and sorrow, as they try to make sense of the twentieth century, so tragic for their country.”
—J. M. Coetzee

“[Alexievich’s] books are woven from hundreds of interviews, in a hybrid form of reportage and oral history that has the quality of a documentary film on paper. But Alexievich is anything but a simple recorder and transcriber of found voices; she has a writerly voice of her own which emerges from the chorus she assembles, with great style and authority, and she shapes her investigations of Soviet and post-Soviet life and death into epic dramatic chronicles as universally essential as Greek tragedies. . . . A mighty documentarian and a mighty artist.” 
—Philip Gourevitch
“Alexievich’s voices are those of the people no one cares about, but the ones whose lives constitute the vast majority of what history actually is.”
—Keith Gessen
“Riveting . . . Other oral histories have relied on a blended structure whereby the individual stories form the supporting elements to the historians’ larger narrative; the grace and power of Alexievich’s work is the focus on intimate accounts, which set the stage for a more eloquent and nuanced investigation. A must for historians, lay readers, and anyone who enjoys well-curated personal narratives.”

Library Journal
(starred review)

“[Alexievich] documents the last days of the Soviet Union and the transition to capitalism in a soul-wrenching ‘oral history’ that reveals the very different sides of the Russian experience. . . . [Her] work turns Solzhenitsyn inside out and overpowers recent journalistic accounts of the era. . . . She spends hours recording conversations, sometimes returning years later, and always trying to go beyond the battered and distrusted communal
pravda
to seek the truths hidden within individuals.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)
 
“A rich kaleidoscope of voices from all regions of the former Soviet Union . . . profoundly significant literature as history.”

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)
 
“Absorbing and important.”

Booklist
(starred review)

About the Author

Svetlana Alexievich
was born in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, in 1948 and has spent most of her life in the Soviet Union and present-day Belarus, with prolonged periods of exile in Western Europe. Starting out as a journalist, she developed her own nonfiction genre, which gathers a chorus of voices to describe a specific historical moment. Her works include
War’s Unwomanly Face
(1985),
Last Witnesses
(1985),
Zinky Boys
(1990),
Voices from Chernobyl 
(1997), and
Secondhand Time
(2013). She has won many international awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” 

Translation copyright © 2016 by Bela Shayevich

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

RANDOM HOUSE and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Originally published in Russian as Время секонд хэнд by Vremya Publishing House, Moscow, in 2013. Copyright © 2013 by Svetlana Alexievich. This English translation is published in the United Kingdom by Fitzcarraldo Editions, London.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Aleksievich, Svetlana.

Title: Secondhand time : the last of the Soviets / Svetlana Alexievich ; translated by Bela Shayevich.

Other titles: Vremëiìa sekond khçend. English | Secondhand time

Description: New York : Random House, 2016. | First published in Russian in 2013.

Identifiers: LCCN 2016005925| ISBN 9780399588808 (hardback : acid-free paper) | ISBN 9780399588815 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Post-communism—Russia (Federation) | Russia (Federation)—Social conditions—1991– | Soviet Union—Social conditions. | Russia (Federation)—Biography. | Soviet Union—Biography. | Oral history—Russia (Federation) | Oral history—Soviet Union. | BISAC: HISTORY / Europe / Former Soviet Republics. | HISTORY / Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union.

Classification: LCC DK510.76 .A44913 2016 | DDC 947.086092/2—dc23 LC record available at
lccn.loc.gov/2016005925

ebook ISBN 9780399588815

randomhousebooks.com

Book design by Mary A. Wirth, adapted for eBook

Cover design: Anna Bauer Carr

Cover photograph: Rory Carnegie/GalleryStock

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