The Sky Wept Fire | Granta

  • Published: 07/11/2013
  • ISBN: 9781846273186
  • 156x20mm
  • 304 pages

The Sky Wept Fire

Mikail Eldin

Translated by Anna Gunin

On the eve of the first Chechen war in the 1990s, Mikail Eldin was a young and naïve arts journalist. By the end of the second war, he had become a battle-hardened war reporter and mountain partisan who had endured torture and imprisonment in a concentration camp. His compelling memoir traces the unfolding of the conflict from day one, with vivid scenes right from the heart of the war. The Sky Wept Fire presents a unique glimpse into the lives of the Chechen resistance, providing testimony of great historical value. Yet it is not merely the story of the battle for Chechnya: this is the story of the battle within the heart, the struggle to conquer fear, hold on to faith and preserve one’s humanity.

Eldin was fated to witness key events in Chechnya’s history: from the first day of the attack on Grozny, and the full-scale Russian invasion that followed it, to the siege of Grozny five years later that razed the city to the ground and has been compared to the destruction of Dresden. Resurrecting these memories with extraordinary lyricism, Eldin observes the sights, the sounds and smells of war. Having fled Grozny alongside the droves of refugees, he joins the defending army – yet he always considers his role as that of journalist and witness. Shortly after joining the Chechen resistance, Eldin is captured in the mountains. He undergoes barbaric torture as his captors attempt to break his will. They fail to make him talk, and he is eventually transferred to a concentration camp. There a new struggle awaits him: the battle to overcome his own suicidal thoughts and ensuing insanity.

The descriptions of seeing the first surreal signs of war are detailed, acute, and horrifying. Alongside the grit runs a poetry of introspection... Powerful, lyrical and disturbing

Arifa Akbar, Independent

[This] is going to be a 21st century classic about war and conflict. In its humanity and honest, it is unlikely to be surpassed. Anna Gunin deserves high praise for her excellent translation - she wove the mood music of the Russian original into smooth English


Expertly translated... an unflinching portrait of an oppressed people and a brutal and little-understood battlefront

Malcolm Forbes, National

The Author

Mikail Eldin worked as a journalist, before taking up arms himself in the conflict with Russia. He eventually left Chechnya in fear for his life and secured political asylum in Norway, where he now lives.

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The Translator

Anna Gunin read Russian at Bristol University. She has translated stories for anthologies, plays for the Royal Court, German Sadulaev’s novel I am a Chechen! and film scripts by Denis Osokin and Yuri Arabov. Her translations of Pavel Bazhov’s folk tales are included in Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov (Penguin Classics).

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Mikail Eldin on

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

The Second Night is Ending

Mikail Eldin

‘This winter and this forest will leave you with a shiver in your heart, which will appear whenever you see a winter forest, even in pictures.’