1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution – selected by Boris Dralyuk

I bought this book on a bit of whim whilst browsing in Waterstones on our way for a pre-theatre dinner.  The cover appealed to me and I liked the idea of the pieces being written in the immediacy of the revolution as it was happening when the outcome was uncertain.  It is easy to forget, when reading history books, that the outcome of an event is never certain it just feels as though it is when you know the outcome.

All the pieces are written between February 1917 and 1919 when the tide of the civil war turned in favour of the Bolsheviks.  The authors come from all sides of the political spectrum so the reader gets a reasonably balanced view of what is happening.

I really liked the fact that Dralyuk gave a potted biography of each included author at the beginning of each chapter.  These were mostly poignant as not many of them thrived under the new regime and yet in the book their poems and short stories are hopeful of better times to come.

I also really liked finding some new-to-me authors to find out more about.

The biggest downside of the book is that although I found it compelling, and I wanted to devour it in whatever free time I had, I prefer to read poetry out loud, which limits when you can read it.  I can only begin to imagine how people on the train might have reacted to me starting to read Russian poetry out loud at 8am!

I loved this book. however, I’d say you probably need to have an interest in Russian history as well as poetry and short stories to be as enthralled by it as I was.

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