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Hunger

by Elise Blackwell

How one person (working in a plant science facility)survived during the Stalin purges and the siege of Leningrad. Makes you think about the place and importance of food in his life and love-life. A strange book in that it's about basically unpleasant things and yet the unpleasantness is downplayed. Spirit of the blitz, we might call it here.

Extract

Alena, even more quietly, completely without words in fact, resisted my wishes. And in the end, my fear of having her think me a coward overcame my other fears. I did not insist, for which I should be given some due. The letter was delivered.

She was taken from our apartment many weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon as we prepared a meal together. Her fingers were bright pink with the juice of a beetroot when she held her hand in farewell, my quiet wife again wordless and ever so brave.

I finished the cooking alone, basting the meat as it baked with sugar dissolved in vinegar, pounding the grated horseradish into a paste, slicing the beets my wife had boiled and peeled so that they stained my fingers the exact color of hers. I cooked the beets green in fat until they fell apart. I cooled the food and wrapped it, though I could not be certain that I would ever see Alena again.

Parallels

Blockade Diary by Lidia Ginzburg
 

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