Towards the end of World War II, a Belarusian soldier and an Italian girl escape from a Nazi concentration camp. The soldier wonders if he should get rid of the girl; she is a burden and is slowing him down. However, he cannot bring himself to abandon her in the snowy wilderness. Somewhere along the way, the two develop feelings for each other, but their love is not destined to grow beyond the edge of the mountains. Yet their bond cannot be denied, and in the end it proves stronger than death itself.
From the master of psychological narrative whose firsthand experience with World War II enabled him to re-create the ordeal on pages of his books, Alpine Ballad is Vasil Bykau’s most heartfelt story. Bykau sends a powerful message to his readers: human values can be extrapolated and in the context of war people can still uphold their humanity.
An altruistic, philanthropic project of Glagoslav Publications, Alpine Ballad is coming out as a gesture of peace and a reminder to all of the human cost of wars that ransack our planet to this day.
The previous translations of Alpine Ballad were based on the Soviet-censored Russian version of the original manuscript.
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Endorsements and Review Quotes
“Bykau writes vividly, with not a word wasted. The descriptions of the landscape sing out, while the suspense and dramatic tension are expertly maintained right to the end. It’s a sad and haunting tale, reflecting a harsh and brutal era.” Mandy Jenkinson, Historical Novel Society
“‘Ballad’ stands on its own as an excellent piece of writing. The tension of pursuit is nerve-wracking; the romantic element moving and beautifully drawn; and the ending (and coda) very emotional. The story is a reminder of how humanity can flourish in the most extreme situations, and how differences between people can be overcome.” Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings
“This is Bykaŭ’s earliest novel available in English – several later ones exist – and has been translated by Mikalai Khilo from the Belarussian, unlike the previous edition of this novel and most of his others, which were translated from the Russian (though the Russian translation was invariably done by Bykaŭ himself from the original Belarusian). <…> In short, this edition published in 2016 by Glagoslav is a distinct improvement on the 1966 edition published by the Soviet publisher, Progress.” John, The Modern Novel
“Alpine Ballad is not a Steve McQueen romanticised escape adventure. It is a dogged, brutal quest for survival. The reader can almost feel the cold penetrating their bones, can almost taste their hunger and their ever-present fear. The love that grows between Ivan and Guilia blooms suddenly like the red poppies that cover the valley, but the path to freedom lies over the snow-covered mountains…” Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
“Alpine Ballad is a briskly told tale, constantly in motion. Bykau’s action sequences, when Ivan and Giulia are on the run, are gripping.” David Hebblethwaite, DAVID’S BOOK WORLD
“Still, it is a fine, and consistently exciting, – and ultimately also affecting – (chase-)story.” M.A.Orthofer, the complete review
“There is something very special about this particular edition of this novel, as noted on the back cover blurb…” NancyO, The Year in Books
“Alpine Ballad is a thrilling story of escape and a beautiful love story. It is beautiful, charming, moving, haunting. Vasil Bykau’s description of the mountains and the meadow is so vivid that we feel we are actually there, and we can almost smell the grass and the flowers and hear the sound of the flowing stream. The relationship between Ivan and Giulia is so beautifully and delicately depicted in the book.” Vishy’s Blog
“Васіль Быкаў не стаў першым беларускім нобелеўскім лаўрэатам выключна з-за няякасных перакладаў, – мяркуе перакладчык Мікалай Хіло, які сёлета завершыў працу над перакладам “Альпійскай балады” на ангельскую мову. – Бо большасць перакладаў Быкава зроблена з расейскай мовы”. An interview with Мікалай Хіло on РАЦЫЯ