David L. Ulin at the LA Times:
“Zinky Boys” is not a new piece of work; it was first published in the United States in 1992 and has been reissued in the wake of its author's Nobel win. Even so, the power of the book remains these voices: widows, mothers, veterans, all lost in a society that finds them of little utility.
They are reminders of a period that official culture would rather be forgotten, which is precisely what makes them of such interest to Alexievich. It is in their small stories, after all, individual and particular, that the larger story of the war begins to emerge. Not only that, but the voices here become the tools by which the broader social fiction may be broken down.
To get at this, Alexievich lets her subjects speak in their own words, one after the other, until the act of reading becomes a kind of slow immersion, and the sheer scope of the loss and the corruption reveals itself. This is only heightened by the decision not to name her sources; they are identified here only in the most generic terms. The effect is of confronting a series of everymen and everywomen, archetypal and yet wholly specific — or perhaps more accurately, interchangeable: What happened to them could happen to anyone.