For Everyone Concerned: & Other Stories

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There's a danger of desensitisation, for the reader as much as for the characters: The personal narrative can't hope to animate such vistas of misery, any more than a butterfly net can conveniently pick up boulders.

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Some of these stories are set in the same period as Babel's Red Cavalry , and suffer very much from the comparison. In such dire circumstances, a savage sketch trumps a bleak panorama.

In a couple of stories, a contrast is established between life before and after the break-up of the Soviet Union. In the first section of "No Matter What", a conscientious company commander during the war at the time of Stalingrad reports some soldiers who have stolen some potatoes to cook in their quarters.

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Unfortunately this is the story in which the translation more or less implodes: The irony of the story's two parts is thunderous but oddly indefinite. Are we supposed to understand that moral standards were higher in the past, or that despite the restricted opportunities for corruption human nature was no different?

The company commander tries to take disciplinary action, but his superiors are more interested in eating the potatoes themselves. There's a strange pair of stories with a second world war setting, reversed in chronological order, so that Russian forces have reached Germany in the first one, but are still on Soviet ground in the second.

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In " Zhelyabuga Village" the narrator is addressed with the author's own name, or its diminutive Sasha , while in "Adlig Schwenkitten" there is no first person but instead a restless shifting between points of view. Each potential centre of consciousness drags along behind it a back story as long and heavy as a goods train, yet none is more than meagrely characterised.

One is simply "the saucy Yenko", and the description "lanky, imperturbable Siberian" counts as a reckless splash of colour. One of Sasha's fellow soldiers, "thin, agile Dugin" has made him some "lovely notebooks" for his war diaries, and perhaps these have provided the source material for the stories. There is the potential for action-film suspense here, particularly in "Adlig Schwenkitten" It was quiet — too damn quiet, as the poster might say , and the details of life in an instrumental reconnaissance battalion are striking and unfamiliar.

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Certainly human interaction is stripped down to the point of caricature: Baluev thought he had a firm handshake, but Boyev had a grip of iron. They immediately established the easy relationship that was normal on the front line. Pubs and bars in Bristol Take a look inside Bristol's cracking new cocktail bar Crying Wolf The two-storey bar opened last week. Advertorial Special Features Why this harbourside venue is where you should be seeing the new year in And no you don't have to be a member to join in the fun.


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