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Second-Hand Time

Second-Hand Time


Book Overview: Second-Hand Time

Second-hand Time is the latest work from Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. Here she brings 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. Fashioning a singular, polyphonic literary form by combining extended individual monologues with a collage of voices, Alexievich creates a magnificent requiem to a civilization in ruins, a brilliant, poignant and unique portrait of post-Soviet society out of the stories of ordinary women and men.

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PublisherFitzcarraldo Editions
Publication DateDecember 01, 2019
Dimensionsin x in x in

'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

'Absolutely fantastic.'
-- Karl Ove Knausgaard

'The non-fiction volume that has done the most to deepen the emotional understanding of Russia during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union of late is Svetlana Alexievich's oral history Second-hand Time.'
-- David Remnick, New Yorker

'Second-Hand Time is [Alexievich's] most ambitious work: many women and a few men talk about the loss of the Soviet idea, the post-Soviet ethnic wars, the legacy of the Gulag, and other aspects of the Soviet experience.... Through her books and her life itself, Alexievich has gained probably the world's deepest, most eloquent understanding of the post-Soviet condition.'
-- Masha Gessen, New Yorker

'A series of monologues by people across the former Soviet empire, it is Tolstoyan in scope, driven by the idea that history is made not only by major players but also by ordinary people talking in their kitchens.'
-- Rachel Donadio, New York Times

'Alexievich's work follows the strands of thought and emotion wherever her voices take her - through nightmares, but also flashes of joy ... The work is unique in the intimacy of the experience transmitted through the writing: which is, after all, only the ability to have a human ear, to listen, and to publish.'
-- John Lloyd, Financial Times

'I am engrossed in Svetlana Alexievich's extraordinary Second-hand Time, an oral tapestry of post-Soviet Russia.'
-- Julian Barnes, Guardian

Svetlana Alexievich is an acclaimed Belarusian author and investigative journalist recognized internationally for her innovative narrative technique. Born on May 31, 1948, in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, she studied journalism at the University of Minsk before launching her literary career focused on detailing Soviet history through the personal accounts. Notable for evoking a chorus of voices in her composition, she bravely illuminates the stark realities often obscured by official narratives. Alexievich's major works include "War's Unwomanly Face", "Voices from Chernobyl", and "Second-Hand Time", each methodically gathering hundreds of individual stories to weave a rich and complex tapestry of life during and after the Soviet era. Her groundbreaking work employs a unique non-fiction genre which she has described as 'the novel of voices', which allows a deep, empathetic exploration of human experiences and emotions in a historical context. Winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, Alexievich was lauded for her polyphonic writings, a monument to courage and suffering in our time. Throughout her career she has also been awarded the Swedish PEN and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for her profound contributions to literature, journalism, and the testament of history. Often described as a "historian of the soul", Alexievich's superb writing continues to amplify personal narratives amidst the grand sweep of history.

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