1:22:12 Thirst, a book review

An easy argument might be made that Russians know the tragedy of war better than most. Russia--present and past--is the world's largest country and borders many peoples, and those neighbors through the millennia have not always been peaceful. So if Russians and their families have suffered from battlefield loss, they've also learned some of how the human spirit survives.

Thirst by Russian novelist Andrei Gelasimov is a contemporary account of one such survivor from the Chechen war. Konstantin (Kostya to friends and family) returns from the front to live as a civilian in an apartment with one problem: "All the vodka wouldn't fit in the fridge," and Kostya likes his drink cold.

During the war, twenty-year-old Kostya suffered disfiguring facial burns, when grenades exploded and set afire the tank he and his buddies were in. Shell-shocked and worse, Kostya would like nothing more than to now live life on a deserved binge alone in his apartment.

[book cover]Such self-imposed exile, of course, won't last when Kostya's buddies, Genka and Pashka, show up. The new "civilian" mission is for the three to find the fourth survivor of the tank explosion: Seryoga--who's gone missing.

Driving around in Genka's SUV (All-American consumerism is Genka's post-Chechnya dream life), Kostya takes comfort in the tinted windows, letting him watch people without alarming them with his disfigurement.

That the three survivors finally find Seryoga parallels Kostya finding himself and accepting life need not be dulled. Told in a compelling first-person voice, Kostya relates highlights of his young life before and after the mutilating injury.

Time cuts back and forth to Kostya's school days and his lifelong passion for drawing, the school director who was his mentor, life with his parents (now divorced) and, the tank explosion and its aftermath: "If you really tried, you might make one normal guy out of the three of us." With such sardonic, dark humor, Kostya wins the reader over for a well-earned epiphany.

Gelasimov closes out Thirst with a moving, but restrained, passage in which Kostya admits his school director was right to call him a fool for not believing his mother's injunction to "wait and believe." Kostya now understands the director. Waiting is the time given to express gratitude for what life gives. Even thanking the birds for their song can heal.

Read Thirst for an an unsentimental and sensitive account of what one Russian war veteran convincingly learns from his brothers-in-arms.

Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov, amazon crossing, Las Vegas, 2011, 118 pp., ISBN: 978-1611090697

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The Cat at Light's End

Read the story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

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