Fiction notes: Depicting war through the little moments

15/03/2023 at 11:25 am | Posted in Fiction notes | Leave a comment
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I’ll be honest. Long descriptions of war don’t always work for me. But when I read how ordinary people are affected by the conflict… then, I relate to their sorrow. Emotions are all-important. It’s hard for anyone to feel much in the midst of a crisis. But in the aftermath… that’s when people grieve, and mend, and sometimes fracture. That’s when empathy and understanding emerge.

Currently I’m reading a book that embodies this principle. It’s not comfortable material, but it is helping me to understand the effects of war better.

Lucky Breaks is a collection of short stories set in war-torn Ukraine by Yevgenia Belorusets. Like fairytale characters seen through a distorting lens, the women of these stories unaccountably disappear from their ordinary lives, while the businesses of war move in. The women’s homes are destroyed and their offices are repurposed for the war effort. And the women grapple with the changes, unable to make sense of their nation’s new disorder. Rumours abound. One neighbour may have escaped to the country. Another woman – intelligent, educated, artistic and penniless – may have accepted admin work with a man who requires intimate services. Meanwhile, yet another acquaintance develops peculiar habits born of ongoing traumatic stress. 

For me, this mosaic of fragmented lives conveys war more effectively than any detailed battle scene. I think Yevgenia Belorusets’s collection is giving me a better view of conflict. These ordinary people could easily be you or me, or our families. It’s easy to identify with them and feel their pain. I think it matters to bear witness to such all-too-human stories. Sometimes, the reading can even bring a little healing.

Photo: Mike Labrum/Unsplash

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