Svetlana Alexievich – Last Witnesses


“A masterpiece” (The Guardian) from the Nobel Prize-winning writer, an oral history of childrens experiences in World War II across Russia

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post

For more than three decades, Svetlana Alexievich has been the memory and conscience of the 20th century. When the Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel Prize, it cited her for inventing “a new kind of literary genre,” describing her work as “a history of emotions…a history of the soul.”

Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, Last Witnesses is Alexievichs collection of the memories of those who were children during World War II. They had sometimes been soldiers as well as witnesses, and their generation grew up with the trauma of the war deeply embedded – a trauma that would change the course of the Russian nation.

Collectively, this symphony of childrens stories, filled with the everyday details of life in combat, reveals an altogether unprecedented view of the war. Alexievich gives voice to those whose memories have been lost in the official narratives, uncovering a powerful, hidden history from the personal and private experiences of individuals.

Translated by the renowned Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Last Witnesses is a powerful and poignant account of the central conflict of the 20th century, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human side of war.

Praise for Last Witnesses

“There is a special sort of clear-eyed humility to [Alexievichs] reporting.” (The Guardian)

“A bracing reminder of the enduring power of the written word to testify to pain like no other medium…. Children survive, they grow up, and they do not forget. They are the first and last witnesses.” (The New Republic)

“A profound triumph.” (The Big Issue)

“[Alexievich] excavates and briefly gives prominence to demolished lives and eradicated communities…. It is impossible not to turn the page, impossible not to wonder whom we next might meet, impossible not to think differently about children caught in conflict.” (The Washington Post)

Author: Svetlana Alexievich
Narrator: Julia Emelin, Yelena Shmulenson, Allen Lewis Rickman
Duration: 9 hours 57 minutes
Released: 19 Feb 2007
Publisher: Random House Audio
Language: English

User Review:

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I love this audio book, more than I could have ever imagined. So many things I never thought about from war – how children view what happens, the fact that no one has a papa anymore. I loved the stories about children getting new mama’s and papa’s because theirs had died and people wanted to care for them. Even stories of orphanages that had the kindest workers and afforded children a happy life that they thought couldn’t exist anymore. Some stories had happy endings, many did not – but I loved that too in a sad and sincere way. I cried so much from this book, learned a lot, and feel a new sense of appreciation for bread.