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Wave of Terror: A Novel [Paperback]

Theodore Odrach , Erma Odrach
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 2008
This panoramic novel hidden from the English-speaking world for more than 50 years begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik has just become Headmaster of school number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Pinsk Marshes. Through his eyes we witness the tragedy of Stalinist domination where people are randomly deported to labour camps or tortured in Zovty Prison in Pinsk. The author's individual gift that sets him apart from his contemporaries is the range of his sympathies and his unromantic, unsentimental approach to the sensual lives of females. His debt to Chekhov is obvious in his ability to capture the internal drama of his characters with psychological concision.

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From Publishers Weekly

Odrach's delightfully sardonic novel about the Stalinist occupation of Belarus that began in 1939 is rich with history, horror and comedy. The story unfolds in Pinsk and the villages of the Pinsk Marshes, where peasants who endured czars and Polish conquerors squirm helplessly under the boot of a regime more authoritarian than any they've known. Families are sent to labor camps on trumped-up charges; hapless innocents are tortured and executed without explanation. Ivan Kulik, the headmaster of an elementary school in the Ukrainian-speaking village of Hlaby, is frustrated with farcical Soviet demands, especially that classes be taught in Belorussian (none of the students or teachers speak the language). University-educated Ivan is fluent in Russian but prefers his native tongue, which doesn't help when he becomes infatuated with the beautiful Marusia Bohdanovich, who incompetently affects Russian airs. Potentially deadly trouble looms for Ivan and Marusia after she catches the eye of a sociopathic secret police lieutenant named Sobakin. There's a surplus of tragedy, but Odrach finds amid the havoc an affecting thread of humanity. The novel has been skillfully translated into English by Odrach's daughter. (Jan.)
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"[This] delightfully sardonic novel about the Stalinist occupation of Belarus... is rich with history, horror and comedy." — Publishers Weekly

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5.0 out of 5 stars Life Under a Dictatorship May 15 2013
Hlaby, a forgotten village in the Pinsk Marshes, a forgotten corner of Ukrania. It would seem to be a good place to escape the turmoil caused by the occupying Russians.

The local people have endured Polish occupation and just when they think they’ve adjusted to being forced to adopt their way of life, the Russians have trampled into the country, expecting everyone to do an about-turn and take on their form of doing things, not the least of which is learn a new language. Even then, there is confusion as to whether it should be Belarus, (not the logical choice of Ukranian, since that is where the village is found), or the language of the governing country, Russian. And God help anyone who questions these decisions. Well, maybe not God, as religion has been banned, too.

Theodore Odrach’s book, Wave of Terror, examines this pervading feeling of confusion and fear. The book has been compared to Chekhov’s writing and I agree for example, with the similarity in style where the plot is not as important as showing the feelings of the characters, their response to this situation. Odrach gives finely detailed illustrations of their emotions and not just of the local people, but of the perpetrators of this misery, too, with their greed, ambition and delight in their power and control.

I found it interesting that Odrach shows how the regime changed the way people related to each other. Fear and distrust mean that you behave and respond differently in the day-to-day contact with neighbours, friends, workmates, etc. An example is where the main character, Ivan Kulik, falls in love with a girl who, completely opposite to him, openly embraces the new regime, even though her attempts at speaking Russian are ridiculous.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
"...then bands of agitators follow... calling themselves long-awaited liberators. Like swarms of locusts, they seep through the smallest cracks and infest villages and settlements."

With this description young Ivan Kulik, newly appointed village school headmaster, introduces the events of 1939 in Hlaby, his village in the Pinsk Marshes - a region straddling the border between Ukraine in the south and Belorussia in the north. What follows is an extraordinary story, a social portrait of a community struggling to survive in the face of constantly mounting and increasingly violent Soviet interference in the lives of the villagers. By focusing on one village and a limited group of primary characters, Theodore Odrach takes the historical facts onto a very personal and intricate level, building empathy and understanding in the reader who is captivated early on and will remain engaged until the end of the novel and beyond.

Odrach's characters are lively and personable, realistically captured in their daily lives and their new, at times conflicting, emotions. Many are torn between willingness to collaborate with the occupiers, anticipating personal advantage within a Soviet system, or maintaining a more or less neutral attitude, risking being labelled nationalist or even traitor, thereby endangering their livelihood and even survival. As the harassment and brutal attacks multiply, and random arrests, disappearances and arbitrary killings are witnessed more frequently, ignoring reality is almost impossible. Propaganda and reality could not be further apart. Even those, like Ivan Kulik, who are trying to maintain some level of normalcy in the school and the village, have to fear being called for "an interview" at the notorious Zovty prison of the NKVD [the Soviet Secret Police], in Pinsk.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Stellar Book July 5 2011
Wave of Terror by Theodore Odrach (translated by Erma Odrach) is a quiet, vivid book that creeps up on you with a subtle, powerful voice. It is a small glimpse into a harsh past, but still shows the very human spirit that endures.

The novel tells the story of Ivan Kulik, a school master in the Pinsk Marshes, Belarus at the time of the Soviet takeover of that area. It chronicles his experiences and those of his friends and neighbours as the Soviet machine slowly invades and insidiously reorders their lives.

Wave of Terror is a literary novel, not my usual choice in a book, but I liked reading the rich story set against the backdrop of Soviet expansion. The characters are old-world, often quirky or outspoken and are the different voices for the underlying political narrative. The plotline is woven with the changing, brutal politics of the day, but the author and translator never overwhelm the human aspect. The characters lives continue, even when their neighbours disappear or are killed.

The book has an almost surreal aspect to it, which I think lends to the flavour of the reading experience and truly immerses the reader in the time period of the novel. And the ending is perfect, leaving you wondering and yet still having hope for Ivan.

A fabulous book that is a must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant; a Must-Read Aug. 17 2010
By Renee
Wave of Terror is one of those books I wouldn't typically pick up. But I am so glad I did. Based in Russian in the 40's. Odrach's bare writing style and his brilliant characterization gently pulls you in and refuses to let go. His gentle humour lightens what could be a very dark story, and the accuracy in which he depicts life and the people is breathtaking. As a reader, I could feel the cold winter on my skin, smell the country air, and I marvelled at the hope within the people of this country in such a dismal time; hope that no amount of terror could break down.

Translated by his daughter Erma, Wave is an important book, definitely worth spending a few hours with. I hope that we get to see more of this Canadian author's previous writing, and so sad that he is no longer around to gift us with more of his work.
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