Cover Osteuropa 1-2/2018

In Osteuropa 1-2/2018

Suffering and the search for meaning
Svetlana Alexievich’s moral revolutions

Elena Gapova

Deutsche Fassung


Svetlana Alexievich’s work can be read in many different ways: as literature or as oral history, but also as a moral philosophical reflection on a large scale. The books in her “red cycle” centre around experiences of despair and disruption, and in connection with these, the issue of the purpose of suffering. The individual texts offer different answers to these questions. In the first book, about women in the Second World War, suffering is the result of conscious action, while in the volumes that follow, the protagonists experience suffering passively and often without any greater meaning. In the final volume, Secondhand Time, this loss of meaning itself becomes the focus: the end of the Soviet Union brings about a “moral revolution” which devalues lives lived and sacrifices made, and in so doing, engenders new suffering. At the same time, there is an intimation of a shift in the search for meaning from the collective to the personal.

(Osteuropa 1-2/2018, pp. 211–221)