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Four Soldiers

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  201 ratings  ·  61 reviews
A novel of war, revolution, youth, and friendship by the “remarkable” (Ian McEwan) French author of A Meal in Winter

“The book’s deceptive directness and simplicity, and its muted undercurrents of horror, will make many think of . . . Ernest Hemingway. . . . A reminder of the power a short, perfect work of fiction can wield.” —The Wall Street Journal on A Meal in Winter

Hardcover, 160 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by The New Press (first published January 3rd 2003)
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  201 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Mar 14, 2019 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: 2019 International Booker longlist
[2.5] I didn't like A Meal in Winter, another novella by Hubert Mingarelli about a small band of military men (in that case, WWII Nazis), so by rights I should not have read Four Soldiers (which is about Red Army volunteers in 1919). However, I signed up for a bloggers' project shadowing the 2019 International Booker longlist, and Four Soldiers is on that list...

I hoped to enjoy this book better than A Meal in Winter. There are things here that appeal to me. Eastern Europe. A wandering army liv
Paul Falk
Author, Hubert Mingarelli, pulled me aside for a trip back in time to revisit the Russian Civil War; the year was 1919. It'd been the one clash between nations I knew so little about - until now. Exceptional credit is extended to Sam Taylor who did a fabulous job of translating this novel from French into English. I can't begin to imagine the effort that that took. Well done Sam.

The morose, panic-stricken scenes were an actual testament to the slow decay of the mind when subjected to the endless
Paul Fulcher
Book 10/13 from an increasingly disappointing 2019 Man Booker International shortlist

Four Soldiers has been translated by Sam Taylor (also translator of Lullaby) from the French original Quatre soldats by Hubert Mingarelli. The same author/translator combination was responsible for the IFFP longlisted, A Meal In Winter.

Four Soldiers tells (clue is in the name) the story of four soldiers fighting in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War, but the focus in on their interpersonal relationships,
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
From the Man Booker International longlist for 2019. This was a short, sweet novel about a small group of soldiers in the Russian Civil War. This isn’t a war novel, though. It’s about the friendship between the four young men of the title, how their friendship grows, and how it quickly falls apart in the face of war. The writing is spare and direct to the point of feeling choppy, but that may have been intentional to reflect the manner of speaking of the young, illiterate narrator. It is also, u ...more
Longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize

I know that I'm not the only one who, after reading the description of Four Soldiers, thought that the premise sounded curiously similar to that of Minagarelli's previously published novella A Meal In Winter that tells the story of a group of German soldiers during WWII and which has received pretty mixed reviews from the book bloggers that I follow. I haven't read A Meal in Winter, but I was intrigued to read this novella since it's one of t
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
[2.5] Hubert Mingarelli’s Four Soldiers, translated from the French by Sam Taylor, is a small-scale homosocial drama set during the Russian Civil War in 1919. What could be a savage war novel turns into a rather gentle depiction of soldiers having a moment of respite. As the first chapter ends, the present-day narrator reminisces about a day during the war when they built a hut for rest: “We walked all around [the hut], congratulating one another, and then all four of us went inside and I though ...more
Katya Kazbek
I love books that show, in a concise, realistic but subtle way the horrors that the war inflicts upon the psyche. And Four Soldiers achieves this in a remarkable way. The way the four boys bond left my heart in shatters. Pure, concise humanity.
But there was a downside. As someone from Russia, I found quite a few things to indicate poor research done on behalf of Hubert Mingarelli. And honestly, I’m perplexed. This book could have easily been set in any (civil) war in the world’s history: which
Tom Mooney
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another superb short novel about men at war by this excellent French novelist. This time Mingerelli tackles the Russian Revolution, following four soldiers from the Red Army as they battle winter, boredom and the looming dread of what is to come. They form tight friendships as they while away the hours playing dominoes, talking or just sitting by a secluded pond.

Mingerelli does such a superb job of depicting the base daily events of soldier life. He strips away the politics, refuses to take side
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A haunting story of four soldiers during the Russian Civil War 1919. There is a lull in fighting and the men find time to rest and enjoy the simple things - eating, smoking, drinking tea, being together, having shelter, washing and not thinking of the dangers of the war they were in. They share a pendant, which has a photo of a woman in it, and each night one of them get to sleep with "her". Another soldier carves hands and sells them to men looking for some solace.
Mateship is a strong theme. Wh
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A simple story about men at their most vulnerable and where friendships are forged amid common fears and shared enemies.
The Red Army were a mixed bag of illiterate peasants and working class men who were mobilised to secure the rewards of the people’s revolution. The story takes place during the Russian Civil War in 1919. The troops are close to the Romanian front in retreat and seek sanctuary in local forests to see out the harsh winter. Those that had survived skirmishes with the enemy now die
Steve Middendorf
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m thinking about the construction of a poem. How the poet starts with an idea, a head full of thoughts and emotions, descriptions and metaphors. All this is got down onto paper. It is revised. All that is excess is removed. It is stripped down and stripped down. The pellets in the scattergun are removed one by one until there are only a few. These are melted down into a single, rifled, bullet.

This story about relationships between men in war is like that; stripped down to a rifle, a coat, a b
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful captured moments between a group of soldiers who are waiting for the next battle. While the story is plotless, chapters and sentences are short, written in simple prose, the final effect is the opposite of this modesty. Rich in emotions, but without sentimentality, and while this story is set in wartime it is (almost) without battlefield. Elegant and absorbing.
Max Coggan
An insight into to the feelings and companionship of soldiers waiting and waiting to be ordered to march and to fight. Well written, flowing style making enjoyable read.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I would give this 3.5 stars. FOUR SOLDIERS is a very simplistic story of four young men in the red army during the Russian Revolution. The novel tells about their friendship and their fears. A short but powerful book!
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The is the second translation of the French author’s work into English the first came out only five years ago with A Meal in Winter which is also a powerful and haunting novella dealing with the cruelty, brutality and sheer senselessness of war. Four Soldiers was infact written a decade earlier but its translation into English has been delayed until now. Although the story is set on the Romanian front during the Russian Civil War of 1919 it has a universality and timelessness about it that can b ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short, stark, beautifully written book of, as the title tells, four soldiers in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War, 1919.

The author deftly builds tension and the uneasy threat of violence.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the 5th of the 13 books on the MBI longlist that I have reviewed. It is a quick read but far more complex that its simple structure might lead one to think.

This is the story of four soldiers (and, for awhile, a boy) in the Red Army in Eastern Europe in WWI. One of the soldiers is the narrator. He never tells us his name. The story starts when he leaves his job and joins the army. He tells us he fought on the Romanian front but that in the summer we fled from the Romanians. While his reg
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting novella set in 1919 as Russian troops fight the civil war post revolution. That being said there is little to distinguish the actual conflict which perhaps is apt given that this is a book about the universality of a soldiers experience and particularly their comradeship when in a period of lull in the fighting.
So as winter approaches a division has to make shelter in the woods until the spring. the four soldiers and eventually one of other are a diverse bunch who make t
Andy Weston
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very simple story of Red Army soldiers retreating from the Romanian front in the winter of 1919. Previously unknown to each other, four young soldiers become close as they wait for a lull in the fighting, carrying out mundane tasks, building shelters, preparing food, smoking, finding comfort in simple tasks. But the tension builds as spring approaches, and the inevitable resumption of violence. This, the build up of tension, is what Mingarelli did so well in A Meal In Winter and if a ...more
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A small masterpiece and a future classic of war literature. Powerful and haunting, it takes place in 1919 during the Russian Civil War where four ordinary soldiers find themselves living together as the army sits out the winter in a forest on the Romanian front. As the days and weeks go by, a strong bond is forged between them through which they find friendship, comfort and even joy. The writing is spare and concise with not a word wasted. The author paints a vivid picture of the time and place ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Longlisted for the 2019 MAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE, I am not sure what to think of this book. Although a perfectly acceptable story of the relationships between the four eponymous soldiers developed during the winter between active fighting, it is not nearly as complex and literary as most of the other books on this list. In my opinion it doesn’t belong on the Shortlist.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
VERDICT: Atmospheric short novel in between historical and literary fiction. About male bonding before the horrors of war resume.

My full review is here:
I received this book from Goodreads.

Four Soldiers is a remarkable little novel. Both poignant and funny - explores the importance of friendship in persevering against overwhelming odds.
The simple writing style elevates both the horrors of war and the enduring friendship formed by the young men facing uncertainty and death daily.

A worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys and appreciates the depth, desperation, and fundamental companionship of war stories.

Zohar -
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
For more reviews and bookish posts please visit:

Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli (translated by Sam Taylor) is a short novel taking about members of the Russian Army fighting the Russian Civil War in 1919. Mr. Mingarelli is a French writer, he won the Prix Medici prize in 2003 for this novel.

The story is told by Benia, a soldier in the Red Army fighting in the Russian Civil War on the Romanian border. Together with his three friends, Pavel, Kyabine, and Sifra, they s
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, netgalley
A short easy read, kind of simplistically written (or maybe it just translates that way?)... it was interesting enough though, even if kind of at a slower pace.... It follows 4 young Russian soldiers marching along with their infantry company in 1919 during the Russian Civil War, & how they spend their time awaiting battle/fighting. It explores their fears/concerns, camaraderie, making good use of time & wasting time...just how young men/boys might get along during such an experience. I ...more
Foraging Minutiae or Four Characters in Search of a Diarist
Review of the Audible Audio audiobook edition narrated by Stefan Rudnicki of the 2018 English translation by Sam Taylor of the 2003 French language original
[2 star "It was OK" bumped to 3 star "Liked it" for the audio narration]

There were definitely some idyllic and lyrical passages in this tale of four soldiers who reluctantly accept a young recruit into their tent. They become more attached and obsessive when they decide that the young
Review of four Soldiers by hubert Mingarelli, translated Sam Taylor

Four Soldiers is set during the Russian Civil War in 1919, somewhere on the front near Romanian and as the title tells us, there are four soldiers as part of a company of the Red Army who have been ordered to the woods on the borders with Romania waiting for orders to decamp. There is the narrator from Kirov (well the city now known as Kirov), the intelligent Pavel who has made plans for the their hut for sleeping so that they ar
Hasso von Moltke
Wow, this is a fantastic short work, and I honestly couldn't put it down. It is a very minimalist work, basic and to the point but capable of conveying a great deal of feeling and "soul." The story is very basic. The titular four soldiers are the smartass but haunted Pavel, the mighty but childish Kyabine, the quiet and sensitive Sifra, and insecure narrator Benia, as well as the Evdokim kid, the shy new volunteer. No great battles or glorious charges are to be found here, nor any pretentious po ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Someone else reviewed this book as haunting, which is a perfect description. It is told by one of the four soldiers, they are a ragged crew that met up while trying to get away from the Romanians. The writing is exactly as if you were listening to a soldier, not well educated, rather simple. I wouldn’t say it was an enjoyable read, it is fairly short and almost reads like a diary. Simple is another word to describe it, there really isn’t a plot and the ending basically leaves you hanging. It doe ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A war novella with about two pages of war in it. The bulk of the book is a fascinating and even often tender look at the bond four soldiers (and later a fifth, a young enlistee) share with each other while waiting for spring to arrive and with it the inevitable advance back into battle.

This basically becomes the record, the journal, of four unknown soldiers. The details of their time, and how they passed it together, is the entire book. The attention to those details, and the interaction between
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The Mookse and th...: 2019 MBI Longlist: Four Soldiers 42 57 Apr 07, 2019 04:32PM  
Prize Readers: 2019 MBI Longlist: Four Soldiers 1 7 Mar 27, 2019 10:15AM  
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