March I: War and Love

What books have you read so far in March?.

  • Belarus: Swetlana Alexijewitsch – War has an unwomanly face
  • Sierra Leone: Aminatta Forna – The Memory of Love

What are they about?

World War II and the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Nothing else?

Surprisingly, love and tenderness also play an enormous role in both books. The authors approach their works in two very different ways, though. Alexijewitsch lets her interviewees speak for themselves for the most part. Women who were snipers, cooks, pilots, bakers, nurses or partisans during WWII and fought on the frontline talk about all of their experiences. What the women went through was so awful, that their occasional silences are almost as telling.


People having experienced something so horrible they can’t talk about it. Those silences are reoccuring in Forna’s novel. It needs the help of an outsider to break them – here the character of a psychologist, whereas in Alexijewitsch’s work it is herself as the interviewer.

What else is important?

Although they couldn’t be more unrelated in style, neither pretends to have answers how to deal with the inhumanity of war. However, they show how people (not some unbelievable heros) survived.

Can you recommend them, then?

Both books are in my opinion unconditionally worth reading.


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