Wave of Terror
Like much of what went on in the Soviet Union during the Stalinist years, Wave of Terror is a revelation. Odrach experienced the upheavals of the time, then emigrated to Canada where he wrote about the terror of that time, his work largely unknown and unread.
I was quite taken with this novel, the story of a schoolmaster who views up close the coming of the Russian “liberators” into Belarus in 1939 and the chaos that follows. Anyone who knows the history of the time will know that the people of Eastern Europe were caught between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army for six years as the two grappled for the continent. But Odrach’s canvas is a village where the dramas of the era are played out in the lives of its inhabitants.
Kulik, the main character, muses early on that the lives of people rise and fall only to be forgotten instantly. This takes shape when a horse thief becomes the party exemplar for the Bolsheviks, and the townspeople vie for pieces of the carved-up farm they have coveted for years. Though they expect to enter a paradise of equality and abundance, instead they find their lives spiraling out of control.
When I put this book down, I found myself curious not only about the other works of this author, but also his life. Much of the novel, like others of its kind, gives one the impression of an eyewitness who has not come back from his time in hell with empty hands.