Zinky Boys by Svetlana Alexievich, publisher - W.W. Norton & Company, USA in 1989
Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian author and journalist who received 2015 Nobel Prize for literature illustrated the agonies and hardship of the people of war-ravaged Afghanistan following the invasion by Soviet military forces in 1980 and the victims of the 1986 nuclear disaster of Chernobyl, Ukraine in her literary feats and discourses.
Fiction and historic facts get collated through an outstanding admixture in all her books. Moreover, she examined the ideological dichotomy that perplexed and befuddled the citizens of post-socialist Russia in most of her authorial expeditions.
She sounds philanthropic while making allusions to the pitiable state of humanity under circumstances shattered and demonized by war and incursions. She intensely opposes the nuclear race between the superpowers of the present world and categorically deplores the dehumanizing impacts of geopolitical tussles that spread violence and trepidations across the globe.
Zinky Boys was first published in 1992 in English by W. W. Norton & Company, USA. It was originally written by Svetlana Alexievich in the Russian language. However, it was later on translated into English by Julia Whitby and Robin Whitby.
This book contains remembrances of the Soviet-Afghan war that continued from 1979 to 1989 shared by Russian soldiers, army officers, their families, doctors, nurses, aid agencies, reporters and Afghan people who witnessed the war and lost their friends and family members during the war. Svetlana Alexievich lamented for the Russian soldiers that got killed during the Soviet war in the Afghanistan.
She named those soldiers "Zinky Boys" because their dead bodies were transported back to Russia and handed over to their families in zinc boxes. Svetlana Alexievich knows how deeply it traumatizes people when their sons and daughters get exterminated on battlefields. That's why, she is found castigating the war-prone leaders of different nations in most of her books and interviews.
The Soviet communist regime that prevailed in Russia since the Great October Revolution in 1917 till the fall of communism in Russia and East Europe in 1991 has been all along a focal point for literary works and political altercations.
With the passage of time, Joseph Stalin secured the top state power of Russia and he led Russia through the World War II victoriously and transformed the Soviet Union into a formidable super power. Stalin's image as a ruler sparked off mixed reactions from his compatriots as well as from political analysts of other countries. Most of the critics convey the opinion that, Joseph Stalin governed Russia in a ruthless, iron-handed manner with very little tolerance to his opponents.
Even after Stalin's tenure in power, the authoritarianism of Russian ruling hierarchy did not evaporate. A good number of Russian litterateurs and scholars deplored the Russian rulers during the Cold War era for their stringent surveillance over speeches and publications. Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Roman Jakobson and Ivan Bunin are some of them.
Svetlana Alexievich also denigrated the socialist Soviet regime and its antagonistic approach to political dissenters. She added a new dimension to post-socialist Russian literature by highlighting the tribulations of Russian women during communist governance.
Her most esteemed book War's Unwomanly Face speaks of the sacrifices made by Soviet women in World War II. The present Afghan and Iraq wars being mobilized by the United States and its allies have also been denounced by Svetlana Alexievich.
Zinky Boys further highlights the pitiable state of the Russian soldiers that returned to Russia after the end of Soviet-Afghan war. According to this book, the Russian war veterans had to live through a period of disgrace and misery following the collapse of Soviet Union.
Svetlana Alexievich is found having concern over the plight of present day Russia as well particularly for the country's alleged illiberal attitude towards freedom of press.
The book Zinky Boys unfolds the horrendously brutal visage of war and the deadly price both civilians and people in uniform pay for political blunders. This book adorns Svetlana Alexievich with an antiwar, humanistic image because the author denounces battle-drums through all the pages of this book both lucidly and allegorically.
Svetlana Alexievich is perhaps still in agonies observing a gruesome war ravaging Afghanistan since 2002 claiming the lives of thousands of ordinary men, women and children every now and then.
Svetlana Alexievich is mainly applauded for her non-fictional works which she has so far written in forms of memoirs and documentaries narrating her reactions to geopolitical issues that hinder the prevalence of peace and safety across the world.
Svetlana Alexievich has been awarded the most valuable prize for literature for her successful and moving portrayal of people's ordeal under despotic rulers, their exasperation under the stiffness of inclement authorities and also for showing the power of ordinary masses to fight back.
Almost all books by Svetlana Alexievich condemn the horrors of war and human rights violations. She upholds a deeply humanitarian approach to the world. Her books with sharp antiwar emphasis are highly relevant in the present world where violence and bloodshed are going on in various places putting human life under constant threats.
By bravely confronting the war hawks of the world through her books, Svetlana Alexievich has placed her name on equal heights with legendary authors like Erich Maria Remarque, Chris Hedges and Ernest Hemingway.
The reviewer is a literary critic for The Asian Age