Svetlana Alexievich, Trans. by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewA chilling, enchanted naturalism fills the book’s pages ... offers a war narrative that hues closer to the Brothers Grimm than to Homer. The book’s gift is to allow the child’s malleable perception to flash alongside the adult’s somber recollections ... How adroitly Alexievich sticks her landings should warn readers against treating these interviews as journalistic records of raw testimony. In form and spirit they are closer to prose poems, sometimes even songs, built around repeating refrains. Alexievich is a master at employing the withheld detail to undercut the unfiltered sentimentalism of a narrator, or adding a poetic sting to an otherwise prosaic entry. Often her technique serves to show how children’s boundless affection and their naïve egoism are both born of an instinct for self-preservation ... These mini-turns function like the tuning of an aperture, opening the lens wide to allow for a deluge of suffering, then narrowing again to show us the human capacity to absorb such loss ... Despite the number of respondents, the scope of Last Witnesses is less kaleidoscopic than that of Alexievich’s other books.