by Alexander J. Motyl
reviewed by Mykola Dementiuk
Much as Dostoevsky's House of the Dead and Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago Alexander J. Motyl looks upon Soviet prisoners in his novel Sweet Snow but these prisoners are very different, since the year is 1933 and the worst enforced state famine, the Holodomer is tearing through the Ukraine while Stalin sits and smiles, smokes his cigarette and does absolutely nothing.
Four prisoners are being transported to the prison camps, a Jewish Communist from New York City, a German nobleman from Berlin, a Polish diplomat from Lwow, and Ukrainian nationalist from Vienna. But their Russian guards are notorious vodka drinkers who crash and overturn their transport truck until the guards are dead or dying, freeing the prisoners from their captives. And oh, what a freedom it is! The frozen wasteland of Siberia lies before them, an emptiness every which way they turn. Still scarred and shaken from the accident they start trudging their way back, whichever way that might be.
The description of the four surviving prisoners is grueling, even a few times this reader squirmed in revulsion from was being portrayed, lost men trying to make in back into life, if such a thing still exists.
Along their way they do come upon people, dead children holding on presumably their dead mothers, all emaciated, their bellies distended and dead of slow starvation. This is not a book for the careless, fickle reader but one who dares to look upon and learn what really went on at the time, mass organized starvation by the powers that be, the 1933 Soviet Elites.
I've read many of Motyl's books, Whiskey Priest, Who Killed Andrei Warhol, The Jew Who Was Ukrainian and others, but never before did I read one such as this, Sweet Snow, showing him at his masterful powers as a writer.
Well done, Alexander Motyl, literary greatness is certainly yours!
Alexander Motyl is a writer, painter, and professor. He is the author of five novels, Whiskey Priest, Who Killed Andrei Warhol, Flippancy, The Jew Who Was Ukrainian, and The Taste of Snow (forthcoming); his poems have appeared in Mayday, Counterexample Poetics, Istanbul Literary Review, Orion Headless, The Battered Suitcase, Red River Review, and New York Quarterly; his artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto and is on view at www.artsicle.com. Motyl teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in New York.
See review for Motyl's Flippancy click here
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