The Sky Wept Fire
Author: Mikail Eldin
Translator: Anna Gunin
Original language: Russian
Published by: Portobello Books, 2013
On the eve of the first Chechen war in the 1990s, Mikail Eldin was a young and naïve arts journalist. By the end of the second war, he had become a battle-hardened war reporter and mountain partisan who had endured torture and imprisonment in a concentration camp. His compelling memoir traces the unfolding of the conflict from day one, with vivid scenes right from the heart of the war. The Sky Wept Fire presents a unique glimpse into the lives of the Chechen resistance, providing testimony of great historical value. Yet it is not merely the story of the battle for Chechnya: this is the story of the battle within the heart, the struggle to conquer fear, hold on to faith and preserve one's humanity.
Eldin was fated to witness key events in Chechnya's history: from the first day of the attack on Grozny, and the full-scale Russian invasion that followed it, to the siege of Grozny five years later that razed the city to the ground and has been compared to the destruction of Dresden. Resurrecting these memories with extraordinary lyricism, Eldin observes the sights, the sounds and smells of war. Having fled Grozny alongside the droves of refugees, he joins the defending army - yet he always considers his role as that of journalist and witness. Shortly after joining the Chechen resistance, Eldin is captured in the mountains. He undergoes barbaric torture as his captors attempt to break his will. They fail to make him talk, and he is eventually transferred to a concentration camp. There a new struggle awaits him: the battle to overcome his own suicidal thoughts and ensuing insanity.
‘The descriptions of seeing the first surreal signs of war are detailed, acute, and horrifying. Alongside the grit runs a poetry of introspection... Powerful, lyrical and disturbing’ Arifa Akbar