cover image Afghan Tales: Stories from Russia's Vietnam

Afghan Tales: Stories from Russia's Vietnam

Oleg Yermakov, Author, Marc Romano, Translator, O. Ermakov, Author William Morrow & Company $20 (205p) ISBN 978-0-688-12394-9

Set for the most part in Afghanistan, these 10 short works of fiction by a young Russian writer capture the scope of the Soviet experience in this beautiful, hauntingly barren land. Eschewing conventional narrative, Yermakov frames a series of powerful vignettes whose immediacy and raw passion recall war reportage. His English-language debut covers a wide range of emotional terrain: young men tested by battle for the first time; a Soviet soldier tortured and executed by Afghan guerillas; the love-starved wife who waits at home for her husband's return. The result is a rich tapestry of images. Dangerously bored by their long sojourn in Afghanistan, the Soviets indulge in hazing, become addicted to hashish and forget their own language, using a garbled mixture of Russian and Afghan words. Yermakov makes palpable the brutality of a war in which both sides summarily execute their prisoners, injecting from time to time mocking glimpses of the official Soviet propaganda that supposedly justifies the senseless violence. This visceral book captures the cadence of battle, the sounds of gunfire and the smell of fear, poignantly showing the reader why this military campaign has since been labeled ``Russia's Vietnam.'' ( June )