The Russian novelist, Andrei Makine, has lived in France since the1980’s and writes superbly about the Stalin era and its aftermath.
He has a telling account in his novel, Requiem for the East. It concerns Pavel who is returning from the Second World War, getting used to Moscow with life being reasonably normal, but with memories of his involvement elsewhere in the war, memories that cannot be avoided.
Makine writes of Pavel: “He was still living in the days when after a battle soldiers would pace numbly up and down among the dead, getting used to being alive.”
What a powerful phrase that is. So many people around us are very much alive, but alive with the constant threat of abuse, or rejection, or failure, or never being understood, or pain, or approaching death, or distracting wealth, or addictive power. This is living, but what kind of living?
Image: Andrei Makine’s Requiem for the East.