In the beginning of Zinky Boys, Svetlana Alexievich states that she didn't want to write another war book and talks about how strongly and negatively writing her previous war book had affected her. That being said, I'm not sure if I missed something, but I was slightly confused as to why she did go ahead with writing this book after all. Can someone explain what I'm missing?

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The section in which Alexievich states she does not want to write another book about war are presented as diary extracts begining with:

14 June 1986 I never want to write another word about the war, I told myself

So note that she isn't telling us that she never wanted to write another such book, she is telling us that that is what she told herself. We don't always tell ourselves the truth.

She goes on to say, in the same entry:

Then, last year, something else happened.

and relates the story of giving a lift to a girl who got home to find her mother had received news of her brother's death in Afghanistan.

Next she tells us:

Then, last year, something else happened.

and relates the story of a young man driven mad by his experience of the conflict who eternally digs graves for his brethren.

Alexievich closes of the entry for this day with the sentence:

But I don't want to write about war again ...

The ellipsis clearly indicating that this is an unresolved matter. The instances she has related indicate that this is a topic which she finds keeps presenting itself in her life, it cannot be ignored.

In the entry for 5-25th September 1986 she again writes:

I didn't want to write about war again, let alone one actually in progress

but concludes that entry with the line

Who'll believe me if I write of such things.

The next entry reproduced is that for 15 May 1988 which opens:

My calling as a writer involves me in talking to many people and examining many documents. Nothing is more fantastic than reality. I want to evoke a world not bound by the laws of ordinary verisimilitude but fashioned in my own image. My aim is to describe feelings about the war, rather than the war itself. What are people thinking? What do they want, or fear? What makes them happy? What do they remember?

All we know about this war, which has already lasted twice as long as World War II, is what 'they' consider safe for us to know. We have been protected from seeing ourselves as we really are, and from the fear that such understanding would bring. '

This entry tells us not only what she wants to achieve with her writing, but the bottom line of why she does so. It is a calling, a vocation. Because people should know more than it is 'safe' for them to know, we should see ourselves as we really are.

My understanding from reading the diary entries is that she writes of the war because it must be written of. How else will anyone know? She feels herself called to write the book, suggesting that it is a duty she cannot shirk, if she doesn't write it, who will?

As she concludes in the final diary extract at the end of the book:

There are only two ways forward from all this: to become aware of the truth, or to shield ourselves from it. Are we to hide ourselves away yet again?

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