The greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century!
Vasily Grossman was born in 1905. In 1941, he became a war reporter for the Red Army newspaper Red Star and came to be regarded as a legendary war hero. Life and Fate, his masterpiece, was considered a threat to the totalitarian regime, and Grossman was told that there was no chance of the novel being published for another 200 years. Grossman died in 1964.
Obviously modeled on War and Peace, this sweeping account of the siege of Stalingrad aims to give as panoramic a view of Soviet society during World War II as Tolstoy did of Russian life in the epoch of the Napoleonic Wars. Completed in 1960 and then confiscated by the KGB, it remained unpublished at the author's death in 1964; it was smuggled into the West in 1980. Grossman offers a bitter, compelling vision of a totalitarian regime where the spirit of freedom that arose among those under fire was feared by the state at least as much as were the Nazis. His huge cast of characters includes an old Bolshevik now under arrest, a physicist pressured to make his scientific discoveries conform to ``socialist reality'' and a Jewish doctor en route to the gas chambers in occupied Russia. Ironically, just as Stalingrad is liberated from the Germans, many of the characters find themselves bound in new slavery to the Soviet government. Yet Grossman suggests that the spirit of freedom can never be completely crushed. His lengthy, absorbing novelwhich rejected the compromises of a lifetime and earned its author denunciation and disgracetestifies eloquently to that spirit. (March)
"One of the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century" * Times
Literary Supplement *
"It is only a matter of time before Grossman is acknowledged as one of the great writers of the 20th century... Life and Fate is a book that demands to be talked about" * Guardian *
"One of the finest Russian novels of the 20th century" * Daily Telegraph *
"Vasily Grossman's novel is burnt in my memory, not only by its huge canvas, its meditation on tyranny, and its dazzling description of war, but also because this is the novel that made me cry - not just a few leaked tears, but a full-scale sobbing episode - in Montpellier airport... Grossman lost his mother in a concentration camp. In Life and Fate, he writes with tenderness, and pain, not only of that experience but of what it is like to survive tyranny. A classic indeed" -- Gillian Slovo * Independent *
"One of the great writers of the last century" * Observer *
Grossman (1905-64) hoped that Life and Fate (1960), the sequel to his World War II novel In a Just Cause (Za Pra voe delo, 1954; no English translation), would appear in the USSR. Even dur ing the 1960s ``thaw,'' that proved im possible. The translator compares the book to War and Peace , but it is closer to Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle in portraying a society that knows neither physical nor spiritual peace. Grossman uses one family's experiences of the months of the Stalingrad campaign to show the entire mad tapestry woven by Stalin and Hitler. Like Solzhenitsyn, he depicts laboratories, prisons, and the Soviet elite's uneasy privilege, but he also covers both sides of the front and follows Jews to the gas chambers. This sprawling, uneven novel is wrenching, and compelling in its portrait of loyal citizens who repel the Nazi invaders only to face renewed repression at home. Mary F. Zirin, Altadena, Cal.