Reading of the week: Vasil Bykau “Sign of Misfortune”

“Two elderly peasants, Stepanida and husband Petroc, eke out a living on an allotment carved from an estate in the eastern Soviet republic. Having survived the horrors of agricultural collectivization during the 1930s, which caused a near-famine in their village, they now face a new terror–Nazi occupation. The Germans, with the help of vindictive local polizei who bear a grudge against the garrulous Stepanida for her Communist activism prior to the war, requisition their farm. Bykov’s descriptions of fluctuations of nature and Stepanida and Petroc’s stoic endurance through years of suffering and deprivation are contrasted with the deliberate brutality of the Nazi occupiers. Even when the Germans are finally forced to retreat, the elderly couple’s misfortunes do not end. Petroc, who, unlike his wife, is an optimist, tries his hand at making vodka to use as a bargaining chip. But the polizei’s demands become insatiable, and when he is unwilling to meet them, events move quickly to a tragic end. Bykov’s sturdy yet evocative prose conveys the strength of the Russian character during a grim period of history. “

I am not really into the novels describing the war. During my school life I was just skipping the “war” parts of Lev Tolstoy novel “War and Peace”, etc.
However I would love to read more and more books of belarussian authors and I actually enjoyed the previous books by Bykau I have read so far. So I will give it a try! 🙂

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