Four Soldiers

Written by Hubert Mingarelli Sam Taylor (trans.)
Review by John Kachuba

In 1919, the Russian civil war grinds to a temporary halt as the opposing factions hunker down in the face of a more powerful adversary, the brutal winter. The respite comes as a relief for four young comrades in the Red Army who pass the time scratching together what food and comforts they can find, while smoking, talking, and playing pranks on each other. But mostly, they are waiting. They know that in the spring their battalion will move on, and they will once again be thrown into the hell of war.

Their story is a timeless one and tenderly recounts the story of young, male friendship as the soldiers try to make the most of the few idyllic moments that bring happiness in the darkness of war, such as discovering a small pond where they can bathe and catch fish.

When a fifth soldier is forcibly assigned to their tent—a soldier who keeps a journal—the four friends know they will soon be traveling to the front lines. They rush to tell their stories to the new recruit before that day arrives.

Hubert Mingarelli is the award-winning author of numerous novels and short story collections. Originally published in French, the novel has been translated into English by Sam Taylor. Four Soldiers is a moving and insightful look at how young men can find serenity—if only temporarily—while facing the horrors of war. The book is highly recommended.