John Sweeney

Atrocity Uncut

One Soldier’s War in Chechnya

By

Portobello 405pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

I hated this book. Not because it’s a poor, badly written load of tosh about something of no significance – it isn’t. It’s a fine book. I hated it because it’s like a smack in the teeth. Arkady Babchenko’s prose is raw and uncut and his subject matter is one of the most terrible wars in the world – and without a doubt the most under-reported.

One Soldier’s War in Chechnya, translated beautifully by Nick Allen, is Babchenko’s autobiographical account of how, as a young law student, he was conscripted for the first war between Russia and Chechnya in 1995. He was beaten up by the older soldiers, starved, then shot at and terrorised by the Chechens. His father’s funeral granted him a reprieve but he fell ill and was rushed to hospital. As a result, he was charged with desertion and thrown into a penal battalion. Finally, when the authorities accepted that there was no evidence against him, he was let free.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,