demands of the motherland

By Guillermo Fajardo*

The recent conflict in Ukraine has aroused certain fears in Western democracies that managed to conjure up a collective and uniform response against Russia. The networks of North American power, activated and safeguarded after the lethargy of recent years, continue to be the pillars that maintain the confidence of a large part of the world in institutions as organizational powers. The rubble of Ukrainian cities, the pain of its inhabitants and the violence of the war will become, sooner or later, material for memory.

The Nobel Prize for Literature winner Svetlana Alexievich (1948) made us see it in War Has No Woman’s Face, a compendium of voices arranged with random raffles and that recovers the little-known role of women in the Red Army during World War II. Rarely does one find, in contemporary literature, the conscious abandonment of the authorial voice, that vanity that some find in Romanticism and that the ancients did not even consider important. Alexievich lends her tape recorder and offers a space for memory, a monumental feat given the trauma wars inflict on the human spirit. When the author writes, she does so almost self-consciously, as if the intrusion of her own voice would discolor what she picked up.

He knows that these memories do not belong to him and therefore he prefers to let them flow freely. We cannot speak of interviews, but of streams of consciousness, perhaps the most democratic form of memory.

We are facing a book full of ambivalence, hesitation and chiaroscuro: those who fought decided to do so because the country demanded it, that cultural idea that immolates individuality and manufactures citizens in bulk, political products that are nothing without the party, the idea or the leader. “We didn’t need to delve into what we were like, because we were us. They educated us in the idea that we were one with the country”, says one of the combatants.

That nationalist political fervor remains dangerously alive in the present. It continues to justify atrocities in the name of a territory, whether through the kitsch of immemorial deeds that history remembers or the more pragmatic function of national security. It is not so much an idea but a tactic that operates with the parameters of faith, since the dogmas of the country, as well as those of religion, cannot and should not be rewritten. Religion and nationalism are anti-democratic texts in which fervor is a pledge of intelligence and the only attitude that does not generate suspicion.

Alexievich shares collectors’ anxiety about not being able to own everything. In this case, the impossibility of collecting each of the possible voices. More than showing us the traumas of war, the Belarusian is concerned with the emotional aspect of memory, the most deceitful but sincere repository of identity. Delving into this book is also examining the tensions of gender, the way in which men and women act on the limits of life and danger, positions that in our time are beginning to be dismantled furiously.

Vanity, love, concern for physical appearance, compassion: an unusual range of emotions permeates these testimonies. In the midst of horror and blood, an opportunity for mercy. The men, on the one hand, will recount their heroisms, but the women will tell the true story, because, as Alexievich herself says: “With joy and pleasure they explained to me their innocent tricks as girls, the little secrets, the invisible signs, how to In spite of everything, surrounded by daily life and the <> tasks typical of a war, they wanted to continue being themselves”.

In war all forms of the future are suspended. The human being becomes pure present, in the urgency to find any crumb of life, some daily gesture. The communion between combatants reinforces this temporal urgency. The terrible political sense of solidarity, in the case of the Soviet Army, was what led millions of Russians to leave their lives in the fields and cities of Europe. No wonder one of them says: “We are a tribe on the verge of extinction. Some mammoths! We are from a generation that believed that in life there are things that are above human life. The Homeland and the Great Idea. Well, and also Stalin.”

Svetlana Alexievich abandons herself to search the shrapnel for the voices of individuals. There, among the ashes, she found a good part of humanity.

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demands of the motherland