Magazine article Russian Life

Sniper

Magazine article Russian Life

Sniper

Article excerpt

Nicolai Liiir (W.W Norton, $24,95) Translated by Jamie Richards

Lilin's first book of memoir/ fiction, Siberian Education, told the gritty, captivating tale of his upbringing in the criminal world. His new novel (part autobiographical, part based on a composite of the stories and lives of those Lilin lived and served with) is a powerful, first-person look inside Russian military service, and behind the lines of the brutal second war in Chechnya (1999-2000).

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The narrator, Nicolai, is unwittingly drafted into the service at 18, offered a cushy, elite placement, but busted to the "Saboteurs"--an elite group of special forces and sniper troops, for having the temerity to suggest that he was not interested in being a soldier. Thus is the anti-soldier forced to become a soldier's soldier.

There are few rules in the world of Lilin's regiment of Saboteurs, other than complete and utter loyalty to one's officers and one's Saboteur brothers. Retreat is forbidden, as is leaving a fallen comrade behind, and death is preferred over surrender. …

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