Four Soldiers

Hubert Mingarelli, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. New Press, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-62097-440-7
Mingarelli’s tepid novel (after A Meal in Winter), set in the hard winter of 1919 during the Russian Civil War, follows four young, illiterate Red Army soldiers on the Galician front. Benia narrates the story, as the men—himself, Pavel, Kyabine, and Sifra—build winter quarters in the forest and spend their days gambling, sleeping, foraging for food, and staying warm. Mingarelli devotes most of the story to the soldiers’ dull days and nights, effectively describing their friendship, which is expressed cleverly in their peculiar nighttime sharing of a broken pocket watch with a woman’s picture inside. When spring comes, their battalion marches into battle, a forlorn affair with a sudden conclusion. Mingarelli’s portrayal of simple men waiting for combat is authentic, but readers may be disappointed by the glacial pace and static story. This will appeal more to those interested in the psychological effects of war’s downtime than those hoping for an action-packed story. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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