Life and Fate

Life and Fate

4.7 13
by Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler
     
 

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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 theSee more details below

Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1961, this epic WWII Russian novel about the battle of Stalingrad was seized for being ``anti-Soviet'' by the KGB; it was finally published almost 20 years after the author's death, when a dissident publisher smuggled a microfilm copy to the West. (Jan.)
Library Journal
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.
From the Publisher
"Vasily Grossman is the Tolstoy of the USSR" —Martin Amis

#1 on Antony Beevor's "Five Best of World War II Fiction" list —The Wall Street Journal, 11/21/09

“One of the greatest works of literature to come out of Russia during the 20th century, Life and Fate could be looked at as the closest thing the Second World War had to a War and Peace. An absolute sprawling and haunting masterpiece that should be on every list.” —Flavorwire

“A delightfully readable 2006 translation by Robert Chandler, this edition preserves nearly all the color of Russian sayings and dark humor while remaining a devastating portrait of Stalin's Russia. Grossman shows how Russian communism was a moral and ideological dead end, an almost exact counterpart to Hitler's Nazism that was preordained from the moment Lenin began killing his opponents instead of talking to them…In the end, he leads the reader to the inescapable conclusion that Communism, like Nazism, had only one goal: power. Coming from a man who once sat in on the privileged inner circles of this government, as an acclaimed journalist and author, this is a devastating message indeed.” —Forbes

"A chronicle of the past century's two evil engines of destruction-Soviet communism and German fascism-the novel is dark yet earns its right to depression. But it depresses in the way that all genuinely great art does-through an unflinching view of the truth, which includes all the awfulness of which human beings are capable and also the splendor to which in crises they can attain. A great book, a masterpiece, Life and Fate is a book only a Russian could write." -Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal

“The greatest Russian novel of the 20th century…. Life and Fate will continue to dazzle and inspire—as unerring a moral guide today as it was 50 years ago.” —Foreign Policy

"It's a masterpiece." -Frederic Raphael

"Grossman's depiction of Soviet citizens as they struggle to survive is magnificent. Life and Fate has been called the greatest Russian novel of the 20th Century. I agree." —Daytona Beach News

"World War II’s War and Peace. Written (mainly) from the vantage point of a Soviet Jew, this masterpiece was judged far too ambivalent in its treatment of the 'Great Patriotic War' to be published in the author’s lifetime." —Niall Ferguson, The New York Times [for the article War: A Reader's Guide]

"Life and Fate is not only a brave and wise book; it is also written with Chekhovian subtlety." —Prospect Magazine

“...a classic of 20th century Russian literature.” –The New York Times

“Grossman’s account of Soviet life – penal, military and civilian – is encyclopedic and unblinkered...enormously impressive...A significant addition to the great library of smuggled Russian works.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Takes its place beside The First Circle and Doctor Zhivago as a masterful evocation of the fate of Russia as it is expressed through the lives of its people.”—USA Today

“Among the most damning indictments of the Soviet system ever written...”—The Wall Street Journal

“To read Life and Fate is, among other things, to have some sense of how it feels not to be free...In more ways than one, Life and Fate is a testament to the strength of character that terrorized human souls are capable of attaining. It is a noble book.”— The Wall Street Journal

“Read it, and rejoice that the 20th century has produced so thoughtful and so profound a literary humanist.The sufferings and self-revelations of these characters provide us with some of the most troubling and occasionally uplifting examinations of the human heart to be found in contemporary literature. A novel for all time.”—Washington Post Book World

“[an] extraordinarily dark portrait of Soviet society.”—David Remnick, The Washington Post

“Fascinating and powerful...Life and Fate does something that, as far as I know, no other novel has tried to do fully - and that is to portray believing Soviet Communists as ordinary characters, rather than as predictable embodiments of evil.”—Vogue

Life and Fate has no equals in contemporary Russian literature...I would go so far as to say that Grossman in Life and Fate is the first free voice of the Soviet nation.”—Commentary
 

“Vasily Grossman's novel ostensibly concerns World War II, which he covered as a Soviet war correspondent. But his true subject is the power of kindness—random, banal or heroic—to counter the numbing dehumanization of totalitarianism….By the novel's end, both communism and fascism are reduced to ephemera; instinctive kindness, whatever the consequences, is what makes us human.” – Linda Grant, The Wall Street Journal blog

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590176542
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
06/13/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
896
Sales rank:
73,214
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

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 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. 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 work 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’s translations of Sappho and Guillaume Apollinaire are published in the series “Everyman’s Poetry.” His translations from Russian include Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Aleksander Pushkin’s Dubrovsky and The Captain’s Daughter. Together with his wife, Elizabeth, and other colleagues he has co-translated numerous works by Andrey Platonov. One of these, Soul, was chosen in 2004 as “best translation of the year from a Slavonic language” by the AATSEEL (the American Association of Teachers of Slavonic and East European Languages); it was also shortlisted for the 2005 Rossica Translation Prize and the Weidenfeld European Translation Prize. Robert Chandler’s 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. Robert Chandler is the editor of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida and the author of a biography of Alexander Pushkin.

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