Bride and Groom by Alisa Ganieva (tr. Carol Apollonio)

a nutshell: set in a Dagestani village, this incisive novel explores conflicts between tradition and modernisation through the lens of tussling approaches to marriage – it’s a love story with more twists & turns than most

a line“Without mutations though,” I interrupted, “there is no evolution.” Total silence.

an image: just before our narrator Patya interrupts (above), we’re subjected to the Wahhabi fundamentalist Timur’s sermon on how Western vice causes mutations that lead people astray – “especially girls, with their weaker minds”

a thought: Sufism is an essential subtext of Bride and Groom, with the plot resembling the path of a Sufi to the Absolute and interweaving various Sufi symbols (wine, the sea, a dot); one must seek complete knowledge of being and ultimately merge with God

a fact: Ganieva published her first fictional work (Salam, Dalgat!) under a male pseudonym, revealing her identity at the 2009 awards ceremony of the prestigious Debut Prize which she won


want to read Bride and Groom? visit here

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (tr. Pevear & Volokhonsky)

a nutshell: a history book like no other, Alexievich seeks out & shares voices of Soviet women who lived WW2 on front lines, the home front & in occupied territories; their stories are utterly crushing, occasionally joyous, fixedly unforgettable 

a line: “Give her a man’s haircut.” “But she’s a woman.” “No, she’s a soldier. She’ll be a woman again after the war”

an image: a medical assistant remembers the death of a soldier she loved and her surprise at realising the others knew she loved him – she recalls smiling with hope that he too knew it, and her first ever kiss is a goodbye kiss at his burial

a thought: many testimonies are from women who were just 16 or 17 when they joined the war effort; some even talk of having “grown” – physically – in the field

a fact: over 500,000 Soviet women participated on a par with men in WW2


want to read The Unwomanly Face of War? visit here