cover image Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

Svetlana Alexievich. W. W. Norton & Company, $19.95 (197pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03415-8

The 1979-1989 Soviet war in Afghanistan, as Russian author Alexievich remarks in this oral history, wrenched boys from their daily life of school or college, music and discos, and hurled them into a hell of filth. She conveys that hell here through the grotesque memories of infantrymen, helicopter pilots, tank crewmen, medical corpsmen and political officers who survived the ordeal, plus those of widows and mothers of fighters--zinky boys brought home in zinc coffins. In his moving introduction, Heinemann (Close Quarters) points out the uncanny similarities between the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the American war in Vietnam. The reality of being a soldier, as this powerful book demonstrates, is everywhere dismally and remarkably the same: grueling, brutal and ugly. Most affecting are the mother scenes, especially one in which mothers of zinky boys meet regularly at a local cemetery and talk about their sons as though they are still alive. (Oct.)