Mankind's only alternative 28   JAN.   23  
Mankind's only alternative
Welcome
MAIN  RUSSIA  WAR NERD   [SIC!]  BAR-DAK  THE VAULT  ABOUT US  RSS
 
 
EXILE BLOGS

The Fall of The eXile For all those wondering what the "Save The eXile Fundrasier" banner is all about, here it is as simply as it can be phrased: The eXile is shutting down.
June 11, 2008 in eXile Blog

War Nerd: War of the Babies in Taki's Magazine The War Nerd talks about babies, the greatest weapon of the 20th century.
May 28, 2008 in eXile Blog

Kids, Meet Your President A website for Russian kids to learn all about President Medvedev's passion for school, sports and family.
May 22, 2008 in eXile Blog

Cellphone Democracy Cam If this girl was exposed to Jeffersonian democracy...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Dyev Photos Yet another hot Russian babe imitating the Catpower look...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

Proof That Genetic Memory Is Real! Sure, the Ottomans shut down the Istanbul Slavic slave markets centuries ago...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Russia's Orthodox Church Youth Outreach Program The priest is going, "Father Sansei is very impressed with grasshopper Sasha’s...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Club Photos w/Russian Dyevs We took the Pepsi Challenge here...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Blogs RSS feed

Book Review August 8, 2002
 
Berkeley Bustard, Afghan Sucker
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 3
 
For example, when you hiss in annoyance at the "abyss" poem and flip a few pages forward, you see a pretty decent picture of a Soviet helicopter coming down for a landing and look to the caption to see what was going on. And here's what you get: "Let them be quick," he said quietly, staring fixedly at the sky."

"He"? Who the Hell is "he"? Tamarov is trying for a quick-cut cinematic prose technique here, but it doesn't come off. You gather, finally, that "he" is a wounded comrade waiting for the "copters" to pick him up. But you don't find out what happened to him until near the end of the book, a hundred pages on, when Tamarov suddenly resumes this anecdote.

A good rule for the aspiring memoirist is this: what would happen if you tried this shit when you were telling the story to your friends? What would happen if you started a story, "I remember holding this guy who'd been wounded. He was listening for the medevac chopper. Then he lost consciousness again..." If you were dumb enough to finish the story there, with the intention of finishing it a couple of hours later, your storytelling license would soon be revoked.

Good memoirists tell stories to their friends; bad memoirists write compositions for their English teachers. Tamarov, unfortunately, is more concerned with impressing his old teachers than with finishing his war stories. And that's fatal.

If only Afghanistan HAD taught Tamarov to believe in action rather than words -- rather than this sort of verbal cheese, at any rate. Unfortunately, Afghanistan actually taught him to form grand phrases. This is practically the ONLY way you can ruin a war memoir. As I mentioned in a recent review of Vietnam memoirs, almost any combat veteran with a good memory, a tape recorder and a sufficiently ruthless editor can crank out a decent war memoir. But only if you talk and talk to the machine until all the grand phrases have drained from you.

Then there's the translation. I hesitate to call it that. It's more like the product of one of those first-generation machine-translation programs. Tamarov's English, as exemplified in his email to me, is much more compelling than the work of the three (!) people credited with the English translation. Every sentence contains an irritating mistake or two. This sort of just-slightly-wrong wording grows with compound interest; after ten pages you feel like you've been pushing through sawgrass, itching from a hundred tiny scratches. Sentences like this pile up: "Through the window the lights of my city were visible. The city where I hadn't been for two long, hard years."

Maybe Tamarov's original was just like this, with the awkward passive ("were visible"), lame sentence-fragment, clumsy negation ("where I hadn't been") followed by a maudlin cliche "two long, hard years." If so, somebody should've smacked him and sent him home to do another draft. But even if every graceless sentence is Tamarov's, the hacks who translated Tamarov's text into English are accomplices in a sustained assault on the English-speaking reader.

Oh, and of course there's the Vietnam connection. This book was first published as Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam, and is full of facile and unconvincing parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan. Tamarov writes with the breathless America-philia of Russia circa 1992, praising the Vietnam monument, the rehab centers for Vietnam vets, and going into long greeting-card orations about the beauty of international friendship with "the American people, who, I'm sure, like the majority of [Russians], sincerely want peace and hate war."

Who says they do? Americans rather like war, as long as it isn't happening to them. In fact, it's rather difficult to think of a tribe which truly hated war. Why do you think your book is such a hot item, Tamarov? Not because we Americans "hate war."

If Tamarov had dropped his fatuous Soviet platitudes long enough to see what was really going on in Afghanistan, he could have written an extraordinary book. This is not such a book. Even the photos are dull things, posed and melodramatic. It's no accident that Tamarov won a Soviet prize with the cover shot of himself and an Afghan collaborator standing tall on a dry Afghan hillside, facing the camera bravely. He renounces the caption which won him his prize: "They defend the Revolution!" But Tamarov is still falling for "words," slogans, maudlin phrases cut out of old speeches. Mark Twain has some hard words to say about the alleged value of experience, and Tamarov's book illustrates the cynical point all too well. Suckered at home, suckered at Berkeley, and still a sucker for every pop-song cliche, poor Tamarov stands not as a witness to the horrors of war but the grim American proverb: there's one born every minute.

SHARE:  Del.icio.us  Digg  My Web  Facebook  Reddit

Browse author
dolan@exile.ru
 
 
FROM THE VAULT
War Nerd
War Nerd Summer Reading Guide :
Feature Story
FANTASY ELECTIONS : The eXile plays the Kremlin's hottest game

Desperate Measures For Desperate Celebrities :
Shawarma Shuttle
Shwarma Shuttle Of The Week :
 

 
 
 
LATEST ARTICLES

Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
Editorial
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
[SIC!]
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
[SIC!]
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...

 
 
 

    MAIN    |    RUSSIA    |    WAR NERD     |    [SIC!]    |    BAR-DAK    |    THE VAULT    |    ABOUT US    |    RSS

© "the eXile". Tel.: +7 (495) 623-3565, fax: +7 (495) 623-5442
E-mail: office@exile.ru