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There’s Nobody Up There


English sample available

An internationally acclaimed Ukrainian photographer and collector and a nationally awarded Russian writer unite for the sake of this unique book on World War II, successfully coining a new language for war discourse. There’s Nobody Up There, a monumental anti-war collection of short stories and photographic images from WWII, reflects the bitter, sore actuality of today.

The idea of this project comes from documentary photographs of World War II, collected by Arthur Bondar. Bondar has been collecting unknown war photographs for years, and today possesses a unique archive of over 15,000 negatives. The selection of over one hundred photographic images of war comprises the visual context of this edition. These images are not illustrations to the text, they are their own visual documentary narrative, working in tandem with the text to create an immersive, eye-witness effect. In these photographs German, American, and Soviet soldiers are caught in action and at rest between battles drinking vodka and schnapps or posing with bombs and automatic guns; horrifying images of ruined Russian and Belarusian villages intersect with images of besieged Leningrad, bombed-out Dresden, collapsed bridges and roads in havoc. And people, of course, looking at readers from these old black and white photos: Jewish families, Russian and Belarusian partisans, soldiers and pilots of all nationalities across the frontlines, villagers and citizens, children and the elderly, wounded and alive.

Ksenia Buksha has written 33 short pieces of historical fiction, based on thorough research in WWII archives. The characters and their stories are fictional, but Buksha was inspired by real facts, newspapers, diaries and correspondence of the Soviet, German, American, British, Polish, and other participants and eyewitnesses of the war. There’s a British pilot back at home after the war – and Dresden bombing – with PTSD (A Burning Crossword Puzzle). There’s Osya Zilber, a young Jewish man in a village in Belarus taken over by the Germans; he is suspected by Belarus partisans so has to join a special unit of Jewish partisans after he flees from imminent persecution as German troops enter his home village (Avengers). There’s a girl serving in the territory defense unit in Leningrad who accidentally flies off with an aerostat over the besieged city (The Aerostats). A Roma boy teaches his Russian comrade the most important war lesson – to stay human (What War Teaches). There’s a German family saving two Soviet war prisoners who escaped from a concentration camp (A Stupid Dog). A Russian German woman sacrificing herself but killing several German soldiers by suicide bomb (I Am German). A Jewish doctor saving a neighbor boy from his father who has turned mad from starvation in Leningrad during the siege (A Neighbor). A Polish girl singing in the streets of Warsaw, secretly mocking German occupants (A Little Eve, Warsaw Riot). We follow Martin and Lt Dieter Knabe, a German soldier and a pilot, through their transformation while the war takes them deeper in Russia (Into the Dark Hole, No Church Ceremony, Christmas, Martin Does Not Sleep). The war brings these people together, their fates intertwined into an uncuttable knot. Their vivid and authentic stories raise a grand choir in a dramatic anti-war hymn.

There’s Nobody Up There is a powerful, authentic interplay of fiction and visual narrative. It offers a key to speaking about war in a direct and frank manner, the only manner that’s possible today, when the battlefields in Ukraine burn from real bomb shelling.

There’s Nobody Up There was crowdfunded in fall of 2021 and publication was planned for the end of February 2022, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put the publication of this anti-war book in Russia in question. The book was published in 2023, followed with a reprint within six months’ time. It’s notable that in April 2022, the book was longlisted for the 2022 Big Book Prize, but the prize announcement referred to the book simply as “a manuscript of an unnamed author.”

Book details

Klaudberri, 2023

33 short stories, 350 pp

100 documentary photographs

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Literary awards

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