Monday, August 7, 2017

Books We Wish Were Movies: The Unwomanly Face of War


Here at Chapter1-Take1 we mostly talk movies based on books but every once in a great while we look at books we'd love to see become movies. The link is right over there in the left sidebar. Today I'm adding another book to the list, one that most of us likely haven't read. Until July of this year, the Nobel Prize winning book, The Unwomanly Face of War first published in 1985 wasn't even available in English. 

Fellow reader Maite—who shares her thoughts on the book below—and I are hoping an ambitious filmmaker reads the book and finds a way to bring some of these women's stories to the screen. 



About the book


For more than three decades, Svetlana Alexievich has been the memory and conscience of the twentieth century. When the Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel Prize, it cited her invention of “a new kind of literary genre,” describing her work as “a history of emotions . . . a history of the soul.”

In The Unwomanly Face of War, Alexievich chronicles the experiences of the Soviet women who fought on the front lines, on the home front, and in the occupied territories. These women—more than a million in total—were nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their efforts and sacrifices were forgotten.
“But why? I asked myself more than once. Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? Their words and feelings? They did not believe themselves. A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown . . . I want to write the history of that war. A women’s history.”—Svetlana Alexievich
Here's what Maite at @RorysBooks on twitter said about the book while trying to share her thoughts on Goodreads. She was clearly profoundly moved.

I don't know how to write this review, I have tried to put my feelings into words but how can you put something into words that you can't even organize in thoughts. The shocking things you found out in such simple words are so painful that I could barely read more than one chapter a day. And I couldn't do it at night, my dreams would be filled with war and these woman's voices.

I asked Maite if she could expand her thoughts a bit, the book—the womens' stories—seem more than cinema-worthy. I don't know about you but I'm hungry for real life tales of women's lives, especially when they're of historical interest and import. Think about Hidden Figures and the contributions those black American women made to our space program, hidden for so long. I love seeing those kinds of stories come out of the shadow!
Soviet pilots Vera Tikhomirova and Mariya Smirnova, 1942. Photograph: TASS/TASS via Getty Images

Here's Maite's take on the book:


All people seem to want to talk about is Wonder Woman, and that is a good thing, it’s an important movie for many reasons, but at the end of the day, it’s only a comic book movie. It’s not going to change the world. But the women that Svetlana Alexievich gave voice to in War’s Unwomanly Face did help change the world, and they didn’t have Wonder Woman to inspire them to do that, they did it all because they knew they could. And, unsurprisingly, no one is talking about them. Most of them at the time (WW2) where just teenagers still in school or married women who weren’t that much older either. They bravely choose to fight for their country, to fight for years in a man’s war, while still being afraid, hungry, wishing for their mama’s like all the man also fighting. Except it was somehow harder for them, to be accepted among them, to give up everything they thought feminine that they couldn’t have while at war. 
They cried for their hair, they desperately tried to sew feminine underwear out of sacs of grains, and that’s all ok, they were allowed to miss those things while still killing enemies and dragging gravely ill people through the mud to their rescue. These women couldn’t talk about their war until this anonymous opportunity came along and it’s clear while reading this book that they desperately need to. So when Sim mentioned on Twitter that Alicia Vikander should play one of those women in a movie it’s like a shock when through me and I thought, why can't we have that? Having those brave real simple women portrayed in a movie will do far more to our generation than Wonder Woman or a female Bond ever could.

I'm adding The Unwomanly Face of War to my 'to be read' pile. And putting it on my Books We Wish Were Movies page. Wouldn't you love to see these brave female souls onscreen? What do you think?

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