By Svetlana Alexievich, Andrew Bromfield (trans.)

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What’s your book for? Who’s it for? None of us who came back from there will like it anyway. How can you possibly tell people how it was? The dead camels and dead men lying in a single pool of blood, with their blood mingled together. Who wants that? We’re strangers to everyone back here. All I have left is my home, my wife and the child she’s going to have soon. A few friends from there. I don’t trust anyone else. And I never will now. A private, grenadier I kept quiet for ten years … I kept quiet about everything.

I think it was the same day I cooked pork cutlets for him. After a while they announced it on the television and they wrote in the evening newspaper that some fishermen had pulled a dead body out of the town lake. In pieces … A friend of mine called me: ‘Did you read it? A professional murder … With the Afghan signature …’ My son was at home, lying on the sofa, reading a book. I didn’t know anything yet, I didn’t suspect a thing, but for some reason when she said that I looked at him. A mother’s heart … Can you hear the dogs barking?

No? But I can, as soon as I start telling anyone about it, I hear dogs barking. And dogs running … In the prison where he’s serving his time now, there are big black Alsatians. And the people are all dressed in black, nothing but black. I get back to Minsk and I walk along the street, past the bread shop and the kindergarten, carrying a long loaf and some milk, and I hear that barking. That deafening barking. It blinds me. Once I almost got run over by a car. I’d be willing to visit my son’s grave mound.

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Boys in Zinc by Svetlana Alexievich, Andrew Bromfield (trans.)
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