Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap (tr. Tess Lewis)

a nutshell: drawn from her family’s experiences among southern Austria’s Slovenian-speaking minority, this book follows the coming of age of a girl whose grandfather fought as a partisan in WWII, whose grandmother scarcely survived a concentration camp, and whose father continues to relive the trauma of torture at the hands of the Nazis

a line: “But is the peace in this region truly ours or do the languages spoken here still wear uniforms?”

an image: Haderlap portrays the war as a devious fisher of men, which has cast out its net for the adults and trapped them with its fragments of death, its debris of memory – she imagines her Father as snagged on memory’s hooks

a thought: with the world finally paying attention to the glaring epidemic of police brutality and racism, it’s worth nothing that this book makes many references to police officers’ unprovoked attacks on both children & adults during southern Austria in the Second World War, as well as the police’s violence in tearing apart families of anyone allegedly disloyal to the Third Reich

a fact: Haderlap’s focus on the effects of conflict on survivors and their children made me think back to human rights lawyer Phillippe Sands’ talk at Edinburgh Festival, where he spoke of the intergenerational traumas that prompted him to research & write East West Street in which he traces the lost history of his mother’s family in WWII

want to read Angel of Oblivion? 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