Before you read "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena", how much did you know about Chechnya? Which of the novel's cultural details surprised you the most?
Join Date: 10/15/10
Join Date: 12/07/12
I knew nothing about Chechnya except that it wanted to break free from control by Moscow. I found the use of exiling the Chechens to other parts of Russia and giving their land and homes to Russians to be the point I had failed to realize prior to this novel. The complete hatred of ethnic Russians by ethnic Chechens became more comprehensible after that. The realization that the struggle will not end in my lifetime also became probable.
Join Date: 02/24/14
I knew very little about Chechnya, but had traveled in and read extensively about Russia. I was really surprised at the history of this ethnic group and the region. I am about three quarters through the book and will finish in the next few days. I have to say the first part hundred pages left me a bit cool towards the book but then it seemed to click for me, suddenly the characters mattered. I think the problem for me was the harshness and the cold delivery of the horror that was Chechnya. Will check back in, in a few days.
Join Date: 02/02/12
I was aware of the country and some of the events (both past and present) going on there. My brother had done some work in and about that area for a while. I knew "bad" things happened and thought I was prepared for some better understanding. The book is brutal, and my brother said they were and had for whatever reasons always been so. I have not finished yet and expect to do so as I believe the book does convey a reality as to what and how people face and survive these hardships. I did immediately connect with the characters. I should also add that my daughter in law is from Bosnia/Hertsgovenia and survived that war as a young teen. We do not like to acknowledge it, but some have very different lives and many are not anywhere as nice and safe as ours.
Join Date: 04/21/11
I was aware that the two proclaimed Boston Marathon bombers in were born in Chechnya and the family left there for the US during the 1990s to escape the Russians. That's the extent of what I knew.
Join Date: 10/15/10
Thought it might be useful to link to our "beyond the book" article for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - which provides a short history of Chechnya - http://www.bookbrowse.com/blogs/editor/index.cfm/2013/4/23/A-Short-History-of-Chechnya. Because Chechnya was much in the news at the time, we re-ran it in BookBrowse's blog.
Join Date: 04/21/11
And the blog is where I got my knowledge of the country of Chechnya and then I turned to Wikipeda. All so very interesting for me since I have always had so little awareness of any the small countries in Europe.
Join Date: 07/18/11
Unfortunately, very little, so I Googled it and read several sites to fill me in and while I was not overly surprised at what I read, it certainly helped.
I am not too far into the book primarily because I am struggling with the small print. But I have put the large print library copy on hold and that should help. Having read Tea Obrecht's " The Tiger's Wife," Ruth Sepetys' "Between Shades of Gray," and Steven Galloway's "The Cellist of Sarajevo," I unfortunately understand and accept the world in Marra's book.
Join Date: 02/25/14
Frankly I knew very little about Chechnya other than the area had been part of the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation. I was always interested in that part of the world. I wondered why Russia allowed certain territories to break free while battling for others. I imagined it was due to oil or another natural resource, but I never took the time to find out for sure. I could really relate to this novel since being Serbian, I am no stranger to centuries-old ethnic land disputes.
Join Date: 01/19/12
Knew very little about Chechnya’s history before I read "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." One of the book’s strengths is that it motivated me to seek out additional knowledge about this war-torn country after finished the book.
While I was minimally aware of Chechnya’s contemporary struggles for freedom and those during WWII, did not know that this country has been at war nearly continually since the 15th century. Was unaware that 90% of Chechnya’s population is Sunni Muslim and that religion has been the source of civil war in the country in addition to its war with Russia. The most difficult thing to learn was the vast number of people who have been killed, injured and tortured.
Though not surprised, am amazed at how most of Chechnya’s buildings and infrastructure were/are damaged by war. Difficult to fathom living in these conditions -- food shortages, no clean water, structurally unsound homes, no electricity, no sewers, no transportation, no healthcare and much more -- in the 21st century.
Join Date: 03/22/12
I knew very little about Chechnya before reading this books. I did some research on the internet prior to starting the book because I thought it would give me a better starting place. While I think the research helped, I think the situation there is far too complex for me to grasp the entire scope of the problem. I agree with one of the other reviewers that the problem will not be solved in our lifetimes. Another example of mans inhumanity to his fellow man.
Join Date: 06/16/11
My knowledge of Chechnya was zero before I read this book. I was amazed and shocked at the deprivations that these people are living with everyday. I think what is really awful is that so many amenities and structures that they were once had are now gone. So much worse in my mind than if you had never gotten used to them. I find it very hard to understand the ethnic war thing which is probably because of living all my life where there are so many ethnicities and it is not a concern for the most part. It all seems so silly to me which I realize sounds a lot patronizing. The way they are living is so heartbreaking.
Join Date: 01/22/11
I knew almost nothing about Chechnya before reading this book I am sad to say. The reason I love reading historical fiction is because I learn so much. I googled and read many websites about this region while reading the book.
Join Date: 05/01/13
I did not know much about the Chechnyan conflict before reading this book. I recommended this book to several friends who were history teachers. After reading our discussions at lunch about the book gave me a much deeper understanding. Even with out modern media there is still a lot about our world that we do not know.
Join Date: 01/16/14
I knew very little. I knew of the conflict and from descriptions from exchange students and refugees I was reminded of the pogroms in Russia in the earlier part of the century but not to the extent that Constellation illustrated.
Join Date: 11/12/11
I knew very little of Chechnya. I've heard about it on the news of course and recollect a little bit about a war in this far away place. As a world history teacher, I love reading books that teach me about a place and a time in history, recent past or not so recent past. I've visited Russia, and the Ukraine and some of the other occupied places in the area and am astounded how little I knew of the struggle of the Chechnyaian people. This is exactly the reason why I read, to learn more about the world I live in and the varied people who inhabit it.
Join Date: 04/22/11
Isn't it amazing to be watching the current political situations in the Ukraine and Crimea with much more political knowledge and interest? All because of this book. I can now find Chechnya on the map (as well as Ukraine and Crimea) and all of eastern Europe is now becoming clearer--geopgraphically,, politically and ethnically (is that a real word?). I am slightly clearer on the term ethnic Russian thanks to this author. He has broadened my horizons in many ways.
Join Date: 07/16/11
Join Date: 04/14/11
I knew very little about Chechnya and have spend a few days on the Internet to familiarize myself with the wars. The book is very brutal in its portrayal of the conflict, probably very true to actual fact. I found during my reading of the book (which I haven't finished yet) I wanted to know more - the resettlement issue was particularly interesting and wonder if what is happening in the Ukraine resembles this conflict.
Join Date: 04/25/12
Very little. That said, I did not find my ignorance a hindrance. I think the book does a very good job of giving you the information that you need to appreciate the situation facing the characters. After I finished the book, I came across the recent posting of the "Beyond the Book" article, and it was very helpful in filling the gaps.
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