Instead of a Review; or, What, and Thanks to Whom, Do We Know About a Man at War?
This article was initially intended to be a review of War, a book by Arkady Babchenko published in 2015, but turned out to be more of an essay. On one hand, the purpose in publishing a book in 2015 about the two Chechen military campaigns may be questioned especially since Babchenko had previously published numerous texts about his recent experiences as a war journalist. On the other hand, War is full of sociological issues, which eliminates any doubt about the possibility of writing a review of this definitely non-sociological book for a sociological journal. In fact, such books revive a new round of debates on two topics important for the sociological discourse. The first considers the status of the "stories" of ordinary witnesses of the events, and their logic of narration has obtained the same legitimate status as scientific narratives; that is why sociologists are interested in the everyday "testimonies" within the "micro-" approach to the study of war. The question that underlines the second topic of the debates is central for contemporary society in general, that is, who has the right to write about war and to suggest linguistic, thematic, discursive, and implicit ideological formats to speak and to think about it? Certainly, there are adequate, institutionalized methodological models to study and to write about war. However, the macro-optical perspective inevitably misses the substantial meanings and emotions that turn wars into the most epiphanic moments of our lives expressed in biographical narratives. To overcome this limitation, we turn to the narratives of those who happened to witness wars from "within", either to fictional narratives (represented by The Kindly Ones, authored by Jonathan Littell), or to non-fictional stories (represented by Pathologies, written by Zakhar Prilepin). The latter are more typical for contemporary Russian tradition and, thus, are considered on the example of War. However, both fiction and non-fiction narratives allow us see the "human dimension of war"; they differ, perhaps, only in the power of conviction, and the level of trust.