Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

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Synopsis

A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state, Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century. Interweaving a transfixing account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middle-class family, the Shaposhnikovs, scattered by fortune from Germany to Siberia, Vasily Grossman fashions an immense, intricately detailed tapestry depicting a time of almost unimaginable horror and even stranger hope.Life and Fate juxtaposes bedrooms and snipers’ nests, scientific laboratories and the Gulag, taking us deep into the hearts and minds of characters ranging from a boy on his way to the gas chambers to Hitler and Stalin themselves. This novel of unsparing realism and visionary moral intensity is one of the supreme achievements of modern Russian literature.
 

About Vasily Grossman

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Vasily Semyonovich Grossman was born on December 12, 1905, in Berdichev, a Ukrainian town that was home to one of Europe's largest Jewish communities. In 1934 he published both "In the Town of Berdichev"-a short story that won the admiration of such diverse writers as Maksim Gorky, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Isaak Babel-and a novel, Glyukauf, about the life of the Donbass miners. During the Second World War, Grossman worked as a reporter for the army newspaper Red Star, covering nearly all of the most important battles from the defense of Moscow to the fall of Berlin. His vivid yet sober "The Hell of Treblinka" (late 1944), one of the first articles in any language about a Nazi death camp, was translated and used as testimony in the Nuremberg trials. His novel For a Just Cause (originally titled Stalingrad) was published to great acclaim in 1952 and then fiercely attacked. A new wave of purges-directed against the Jews-was about to begin; but for Stalin's death, in March 1953, Grossman would almost certainly have been arrested himself. During the next few years Grossman, while enjoying public success, worked on his two masterpieces, neither of which was to be published in Russia until the late 1980s: Life and Fate and Everything Flows. The KGB confiscated the manuscript of Life and Fate in February 1961. Grossman was able, however, to continue working on Everything Flows, a novel even more critical of Soviet society than Life and Fate, until his last days in the hospital. He died on September 14, 1964, on the eve of the twenty-third anniversary of the massacre of the Jews of Berdichev in which his mother had died. Robert Chandler is the author of Alexander Pushkin and the editor of two anthologies for Penguin Classics: Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida and Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov. His translations of Sappho and Guillaume Apollinaire are published in the Everyman's Poetry series. His translations from Russian include Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, Everything Flows, and The Road (all published by NYRB Classics); Leskov's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk; and Aleksander Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter. Together with Olga Meerson and his wife, Elizabeth, he has translated a number of works by Andrey Platonov. One of these, Soul, won the 2004 AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavonic and East European Languages) Prize. His translation of Hamid Ismailov's The Railway won the AATSEEL Prize for 2007 and received a special commendation from the judges of the 2007 Rossica Translation Prize. Elizabeth Chandler is a co-translator, with her husband, of Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter; of Vasily Grossman's Everything Flows and The Road; and of several volumes of Andrey Platonov: The Return, The Portable Platonov, Happy Moscow, and Soul. Yury Bit-Yunan was born in Bryansk, in western Russia. He graduated from the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, and completed his doctorate on the work of Vasily Grossman. At present he is lecturing on literary criticism at the Russian State University while continuing to research Grossman's life and work.
 
Published June 13, 2012 by NYRB Classics. 906 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, War. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Life and Fate

The Guardian

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Life and Fate: Journey (Radio 4) is the fifth instalment of Radio 4's week-long, 13 part adaptation of the Vasily Grossman novel.

Sep 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

The Guardian

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A war correspondent for the Red Army's Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, a witness to the battle of Stalingrad and the first journalist to give an account of the Nazi extermination camps (after visiting Treblinka), Vasily Grossman was ideally placed to write arguably the greatest novel inspired by the s...

May 09 2010 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

The Telegraph

This means the 3.00pm Classic Serial slots at the weekend and the 10.45am Woman’s Hour Drama slots (with their 7.45pm repeat) and 2.15pm Afternoon Play slots during the week will all be taken over.

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

The Telegraph

You could almost smell the apprehension on Radio 4 on Sunday afternoon, as Vassily Grossman’s Life and Fate – a thirteen-part dramatisation of a great but underexposed Russian novel written in 1959 and set during World War Two – began on the network.

Sep 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

London Review of Books

In Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism – a difficult book, but, it seems increasingly clear, the most important critical work of the last twenty years – Fredric Jameson observes that ‘the disappearance of the individual subject, along with its formal consequence, the increasin...

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The New York Review of Books

A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state, Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century.

May 16 2006 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

Socialist Review

The new BBC adaptation of Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate for Radio 4 will give this important book a new audience.

| Read Full Review of Life and Fate

truthdig

The Spanish-American War was a land grab for those seeking an American empire overseas, while World War I was for making the world “safe for democracy”—and for American business interests globally.

Oct 20 2013 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

truthdig

Truthdig tips its hat this week to Jack Goldsmith, who speaks out about his experiences during his nine-month tenure as head of the Office of Legal Counsel during a crucial phase of the Bush presidency in 2003-4 in his troubling and illuminating new book, “The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment ...

May 23 2013 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

truthdig

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, “of those singled out to prove their citizenship, 61 percent are Hispanic when only 14 percent of registered Florida voters are Hispanic,” suggesting an attempt to purge Latinos, who tend to vote Democratic.

Jun 13 2012 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

truthdig

Anderson, December 30, 2006 at 11:05 am Link to this comment(Unregistered commenter).

Dec 27 2006 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

Islington Tribute

Grossman used his experience to pen what has been described by Le Monde as the finest novel produced in the Soviet Union, Life And Fate, which his daughter will discuss with translator Robert Chandler, as well as her own memoirs about life in the Ukraine.

Jun 10 2010 | Read Full Review of Life and Fate

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