IF you're wondering what you should read in the year ahead, well here's a start : '' Eastbound '' by Maylis de Kerangal.

De Kerangal's brief, lyrical novel, first published in France in 2012 and newly translated by Jessica Moore, follows a young Russian conscript named Aliocha on a trans-Siberian train packed with other soldiers.

The mood is grim. Aliocha, unnerved after a brawl, decides to desert with the help of a civilian passenger, a Frenchwoman.

Their desolate surroundings - de Kerangal describes the Siberian landscape as '' a  world turned inside out like a glove, raw, wild empty'' - only heightens the stakes [ Archipelago]

EXCERPT : These guys come from Moscow and don't know where they're going. There's a crowd of them, more than a hundred, young, white - pallid, even - wan and shorn, their arms veiny and eyes pacing in the train car, camouflage pants and briefs, torsos caged in khaki undershirts, thin chains with crosses bouncing against their chests.

Guys lining the walls in passageways and corridors, sitting, standing, stretched out on the berths, letting their arms dangle, letting their bored resignation dangle in the void.

They've been onboard for more than 40 hours now, crammed together, squeezed into the liminal space of the train : the conscripts.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times Book Staff.


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