I Am A Chechen! by German Sadulaev

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I Am A Chechen! by German Sadulaev

Buy I Am A Chechen! by German Sadulaev at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This book is about a passionate and proud Chechen (the author) even although the genre is fiction. The ravages of a war-torn people are writ large in this poignant book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0-099-53235-4

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That exclamation mark in the title says a lot. It says that, in spite of everything, in spite of Sadulaev leaving his homeland, it still tugs at his heartstrings - and will probably do so throughout the rest of his life. The short author's note at the beginning ends with the arresting sentence - Sadulaev's work has unleashed heated debate in Russia. And I'm thinking, brave author indeed and I also couldn't wait to find out what all the fuss was about.

The bald, simple statement that It's hard to be a Chechen is certainly an understatement. Sadulaev elaborates further - If you're a Chechen, you must feed and shelter your enemy when he comes knocking as a guest ... you must offer your last piece of bread to your friend ... And I wonder just how many of us could actually do this.

A mystical, other-worldly feel creeps in when Sadulaev talks, at some length, about ... swallows. for us, swallows are immortal and where these birds decide to nest is of huge siginificance for the Chechen people - or for some, at least, Sadulaev included. No swallows under your eaves has a negative effect - lives less than fulfilled etc. This section of the book has an enchanting, almost innocent feel to it.

Then the 'w' word is mentioned. War. Bitterness and raw emotion creep into the narrative as Sadulaev tells us that often life is far too short for a soldier. He contemplates, at great length, what it's like to be a Chechen specifically in relation to Russia. Rootless, dis-placed, uncomfortable when on Russian soil...

And provocative writing is in evidence in this book. Lines such as During the first Chechen War, nearer its end, an end which shamed Russia ... is, by my definition, provocative. I have to say that I didn't fully warm to Sadulaev's writing style. Often it came across as a series of statements, stopping short of a rant. It didn't endear itself to me generally although I took on board the political/economic situation. I felt I was reading the book in rather a half-hearted fashion.

Sadulaev's emotions - strong emotions, bubble away just under the surface. I can feel them. He wants to get certain things said and off his chest, but as this is a work of fiction, I wonder if it's the right platform. It's not an easy read and I put this down to Sadulaev's style. Perhaps he could have been a little more reader-friendly.

Chechens are the underdogs is the message here. The enemy. Regardless of what they choose to do. I could almost taste the bile in Sadulaev's throat. To keep his readers abreast of all things Chechen, the author provides an explanatory 'Notes' section at the end of the book.

The accummulation of violence, war, lost or dis-placed identity are strong subjects to writre about - whatever the nationality. It's enough sometimes to turn someone mad. And on cue, Sadulaev says Let me tell you about the madmen. I found this a desperately sad book to read but also thought-provoking.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan.

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Buy I Am A Chechen! by German Sadulaev at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Am A Chechen! by German Sadulaev at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy I Am A Chechen! by German Sadulaev at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Am A Chechen! by German Sadulaev at Amazon.com.


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