Review of four Soldiers by hubert Mingarelli, translated Sam Taylor
Four Soldiers is set during the Russian Civil War in 1919, somewhere on the front near Romanian and as the title tells us, there are four soldiers as part of a company of the Red Army who have been ordered to the woods on the borders with Romania waiting for orders to decamp. There is the narrator from Kirov (well the city now known as Kirov), the intelligent Pavel who has made plans for the their hut for sleeping so that they are protected, Uzbek soldier Kyabine, a guy who really shouldn't gamble his tobacco in games of Dice as he doesn't win (a thought while reading is how can you lose so many games of Dice, which would be a game of chance?). Kyabine reminds me of lenny from Of Mice & Men, he is a very strong, diligent hardworker but not clever and then there is the quiet sifra who can put a gun together with his eyes closed. Threre is a guardedness to them when forced to take on a fifth soldier to their hut by the Lieutenant, a young teenager enlisted from the Lake Ladoga area but after they realise he isn't going any where, there is a paternal protectiveness towards the new recruit.
the conditions are hard but with the help of each of the four working together in the base, they have made the best of what they can. For example, at there hut they have used tins to protect from rain and when they had been in retreat from the Polish front, they got a tarp for protection.
The narrative is minimalist and Taylor's translation is similar to his superb translation of David foenkinos' Charlotte. There is a really good restraint to it and it works really well in this to create the feeling that as well as the reader, the soldiers in the sense of them waiting for orders but wanting to take it easy. As the song goes, the waiting is the hardest part. .
another quote was from the war series generation war, the line being about after a while fighting for your friends and i got the real sense that the four soldiers main purpose now is not the cause of socialism, socialism never being mentioned, but they have stuck it out for each other, to be there for them.
I thought this was a superb novel and finished it in one day (it is also only 150 pages.
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