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Second-Hand Time Paperback – 23 May 2016

4.6 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions (23 May 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910695114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910695111
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 4.8 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

'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, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature

From the Inside Flap

In this magnificent requiem to a civilization in ruins, the winne of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature reinvents a singular, polyphonic literary form, bringing together the voices of dozens of witnesses to the collapse of the USSR in a formidable attempt to chart the disappearance of a culture and to surmise what new kind of man may emerge from the rubble.Alexievich's method is simple: 'I don't ask people about socialism, I ask about love, jealousy, childhood, old age. Music,dances, hairstyles. The myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life. This is the only way to chase the catastrophe into theframework of the mundane and attempt to tell a story. Try to figure things out. It never ceases to amaze me how interestingordinary, everyday life is. There are an endless number of human truths...History's sole concern is the facts; emotions areout of its realm of interest. It's considered improper to admit feelings into history. I look at the world as a writer, not strictlyan historian. I am fascinated by people...'From this fascination emerges a brilliant, poignant and unique portrait of post-Soviet society, built on the traumatismsof its predecessors' collapse.

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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This is one of the best books I have ever read. The idea of a collection of interviews of such a varied sample of the population made the book. The translation read well. Reading through the book was harrowing at times and made me wonder about the strength of the human being and nature. The whole text reflected the skill of the author in keeping her theme throughout. The theme paints a very bleak picture of politics, politicians and how people can turn for a few kopeks. Happiness? It does exist and isn't always related to financial gain. People work hard to improve their lives and that of their families however at some point they may become so frustrated that there appear few option s left to them. An essential read for those people interested in USSR and political changes over the years and the effects of these changes on the ordinary 'man in the street'. Definitely worth the 5 stars!
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This is a terrific read, and I thank you for a great service.
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Sombre and moving
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These personal life stories accurately depict the grief of a society where perceptive, intelligent, and virtuous individuals are repressed by their governing regime, its bullies and exploiters. Russia is one of the few countries where, in contradiction to Aristotle’s dictum, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The catalogue of social disaster seems endless, from Stalin’s Terror, through the continuing abuses of military conscription, the prevalence of domestic violence against women, the Azeri/Armenia atrocities, alcoholism, casual everyday anti-Semitism, vicious ethnic discrimination against Tajiks, the takeover by a brash oligarchic consumer society, brutal repression of demonstrators in Belarus, the horrific Chechnya war, widespread police corruption, and the overall rule of fear.

In a particularly telling passage, one correspondent, an architect Anna, states that these horrors are visited on Russians by none other than their own Russian compatriots. ‘It wasn’t just anyone doing time, it was the people. And the ones sentencing them and guarding them were the people too – not foreign workers, not people brought in from outside – they were the very same people. Our own men. Kin…Millions of inmates had to be arrested, interrogated, transported, and shot for minor transgressions. Someone had to do all this....and they found millions of people who were willing to’ (p 396).

And as another correspondent says of modern Russia, ‘So what if Putin leaves. Some new autocrat will come take the throne in his place. People will go on stealing, same as before. We’ll still have the filthy entranceways, the abandoned elderly, the cynical bureaucrats, and the brazen traffic cops.
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I loved every page of the book as it slowly unfolded many tales of the post Soviets. It brought back the memories of my early life in the USSR and later in Kazakstan. In my eyes it's a real masterpiece, my sincere thanks to the author.
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This opens up with a nice time line, charting most of the major events in modern Russia since Stalin’s death in 1953. Alexievich focuses much on the shocking and disastrously long and anarchic transition from communism into “Russian capitalism” in the 90s. Most people had no idea how it worked as they had never been told and so they got left behind, whilst a few elite gangsters eventually rose to the top amidst murder and theft. “The discovery of money hit us like an atomic bomb…” someone insists. “It’s all about money and muscle” says another. It’s hard to fathom the phenomenal changes that swept the nation and how deeply it impacted on millions, many committed suicide or went insane, others fled or were jailed or killed.

People with an interest in modern Russia and the ongoing political situation there will likely be familiar with most of the main politicians, oligarchs and media people, who have been written about many times before. One of the great things about Alexievich’s approach is that she really tries to get underneath the surface, capturing the voice and opinions of the people who these changes affected, ie everyone. We hear from the idealists, the kitchen philosophers, average people who are just trying to get by and make their way in the world. All of these seemingly banal stories and memories are actually incredibly powerful and moving, so many prove utterly fascinating accounts all about their hopes, fears and dreams for their lives in the new Russia.

It’s not just the gullible or impressionable, we hear from plenty of seemingly highly intelligent and well educated people too, which just goes to prove the power of propaganda.
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I enjoyed this book but not as much as 'Chernobyl - a prayer'. The style was similar (obviously) but the responses to the interviews were almost the exact opposite to those relevant to Chernobyl. In Second-hand Time, we witnessed the discontent of the Soviet people, longing for former days. They had given up a sense of invincibility to the wiles of a consumer society, in which most people could not participate. In the Old Testament it was called "Selling your birthright for a mess of pottage".
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