Svetlana Aleksievich: "War's Unwomanly Face"

Svetlana Aleksievich

Svetlana Aleksievich's book “ War's Unwomanly Face” is published without cuts

The most known book of Belarusian writer Svetlana Aleksievich “ War's Unwomanly Face ” was published in the Palmira publishing house (Moscow). The book appeared in its full version for the first time - Aleksievich added some new episodes, and also restored many cuts made in the middle of 80th by editors and censors of her book.

Svetlana Aleksievich working on a new book about love ( “The Wonderful Deer Of Eternal Hunt”), had to suspend the work as the theme of war became actual again.

- As a matter of fact, mankind has returned to the past, - Aleksievich notes. - Look, America is seized with military enthusiasm and this terrible war in the Chechen Republic… It is necessary to oppose something to the World speaking about war in man's language. Therefore a new interest to my books – “ War's Unwomanly Face” and “The last witnesses” appeared in the West. I was suggested to republish them in Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia. Not accidentally I think, because these books tell about the war on behalf of women and children and overturn present ideas about the war.

However, having re-read the books published twenty years ago, Aleksievich understood that it is impossible to publish them without re-making.

- I wrote it in the Soviet period and was also captured by the then ideology, - she speaks. - Besides all next years I continued to collect materials. As I have understood, I have such a genre when it is impossible to place a full stop - all the same will be dots. As Pazolini spoke, my portrait will be finished, when I die. After the first publication of  “War's Unwomanly Face” my characters rang me up, wrote letters, I continued to meet someone. Besides today the characters of my book speak about other things - pathos has left and they recollect more human things.

Already in the new version of the book Aleksievich describes more expanded memoirs of the characters and also publishes conversations with the Soviet censors due to whom her book was published with cuts. So she describes following dialogues:

- What for all this biology? You humiliate women with a primitive naturalism. The woman is a heroine. You discredit her; make her an ordinary woman, a female. And they are holy.

- Our heroism is sterile, it does not want to take into account neither physiology, nor biology. It is not plausible. Not only spirit, but also a body is tested, - I answered.

- Where did you get these thoughts? They are alien ideas, not Soviet. You make fun of those who are in communal graves. You like Remark, don’t you? It won’t work here. The Soviet woman is not an animal!”

And censors made cuts both in the Russian version of the book, and in Belarusian, both in magazine and in book versions. For example, censorship threw away the following episodes:

“We walked forty kilometers… The women’s auto-battalion. A heat. Thirty degrees. Many girls has… That… Female… Flows down on legs… We got nothing, no hygienic... We reached the water, saw a river... And all the girls went there. And Germans began to shoot from another side. They adjusted fire very well... We should be washed, because it was a shame… We didn’t get out from the water, and one girl was lost…”

“When we took captive and brought them to the group… We did not shoot them, too easy death for them, we pinned them up, as pigs, with ramrods, cut on slices. I went to look on it… I was waiting for! I had been waiting for a long time for the moment when their eyes… pupils will start to burst from pain…

What do you know about it?! They burnt my mum and my sisters on the middle of the village…”.

However for the sake of justice it is necessary to note, that the author also "cut" the book.

- I was also the person of time and was also hypnotized by our Victory, - admitted Aleksievich. - It seemed to me, that if I glanced to the depth of human souls, my outlook would suffer defeat. And the world for me would be not so fine. I also needed a big way before to understand, that a person can be different. And then I loved an ideal person. We were trained to think this way. We felt fear before a real person. Including me. Therefore I also threw out the following story from the book:

“We were surrounded… Political instructor Lunin… He read the order that Soviet soldiers didn’t surrender into captivity. As comrade Stalin told, we had no captives, we had traitors. Guys got pistols… Lunin ordered: “No need… Live, guys, you are young”. And he shotted himself…

When we returned, we were already attacking… I remember a little boy. He ran up to us whence from under the ground, from a cellar, and shouted: “Kill my sister! Kill! She loved the German!” He had round eyes with fear. His mother ran after him… Ran and crossed herself …”.

Now Aleksievich has restored these and similar stories. And simultaneously prepared the new edition of “Last witnesses” (stories of children who went through the Second World War; this book was also published). And soon her other well- known books will be filled up and republished: “The Chernobyl prays” and “Captivated by death” (about russian suicides; the wave of suicides rose in the former USSR right after the crash of a communistic Utopia).

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