Another Country

On June 8, 2022, when the world finally recognized the atrocities of Russian troops on the occupied territories of Ukraine, I proposed an intellectual exercise to my Facebook friends: “Imagine that a couple of years have passed. Russian war crimes are discussed less and less. Perhaps some war criminals have even been jailed. Those who survived try to forget and just live a normal life, while the media have turned their attention to other events. And then we learn that there was a writer of genius among the Russian troops in Bucha or Irpin, in the Chernihiv and Kharkiv regions. And he writes brilliant prose about all that happened there. You know, without pathos, without excuses, a bit disinterestedly; he describes the horrors almost aloofly, but without covering up them up. (He himself, according to what we hear, didn’t kill anyone.) His genius is undeniable. His book is widely translated and wins prizes. And in bookstores and in libraries, his prose is shelved under ‘Ukraine.’ Ukrainians are furious, of course, but not as fervidly as they would have been in 2022. And who is listening to them? Everyone agrees, of course, that what they endured, what traumatized them, was horrible. And everyone agrees that this great prose, with its roots in a great culture, no matter how tragic the circumstances were, will outlive this traumatized generation. It will outlive the survivors because it has such a great culture behind it.”    If you think that I was being hysterical in my bleak thought-experiment, I should admit that I did make a mistake: the situation that I imagined came to pass sooner than I expected — it was a matter of only a few months. On August 17, 2022, The Guardian published a profile of Pavel Filatiev, a former Russian paratrooper

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