** Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich

I doubt that many people will read Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets cover to cover, but even a limited exploration is eye-opening. What the author has done is stitch together conversations and extended monologues with ordinary Russians about the demise of the USSR. Viewed from afar, it’s easy to see the fall of the communist regime and the breakup of the country as progress, but it’s not simple or easy to live through a revolution. And while many of the participants recall truly horrific episodes of torture and killing, it makes sense for them to also regret the old days, when daily life was indeed a little easier, if you were not yourself, at that moment, being tortured or killed. As one of the interviewees says, “What was the point of all that? All that’ll be left of us will be a couple of lines in a history textbook.” The book shows what happened between the lines.


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