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Title: Life and Fate
Author: Vasily Grossman
Publisher: Published October 5th 2006 by Vintage Classics (first published 1980)
ISBN: 9780099506164
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Life and Fate is an epic tale of a country told through the fate of a single family, the Shaposhnikovs. As the battle of Stalingrad looms, Grossman's characters must work out their destinies in a world torn apart by ideological tyranny and war. Completed in 1960 and then confiscated by the KGB, this sweeping panorama of Soviet society remained unpublished until it was smug Life and Fate is an epic tale of a country told through the fate of a single family, the Shaposhnikovs. As the battle of Stalingrad looms, Grossman's characters must work out their destinies in a world torn apart by ideological tyranny and war. Completed in 1960 and then confiscated by the KGB, this sweeping panorama of Soviet society remained unpublished until it was smuggled into the West in 1980, where it was hailed as a masterpiece. Librarian's Note: This is an alternative cover edition of ISBN13: 9780099506164

30 review for Life and Fate

  1. 4 out of 5

    Orsodimondo

    QUI SI SCRIVE, NON SI VA A ZONZO Qui si scrive, non si va a zonzo: così avrebbe detto Tolstoj se avesse potuto leggere Vita e destino. Qui non si va a zonzo, sono pagine con peso specifico, importanti, ben oltre il lor numero (settecento). Da anni, molti, non leggevo un libro così. Così bello, così denso, così esigente, così ricco. Arrivato a metà, ho istintivamente rallentato, per non finirlo troppo presto, per gustarlo a fondo, distillarlo. Quando l’ho chiuso per l’ultima volta, ho deciso di tenerl QUI SI SCRIVE, NON SI VA A ZONZO Qui si scrive, non si va a zonzo: così avrebbe detto Tolstoj se avesse potuto leggere Vita e destino. Qui non si va a zonzo, sono pagine con peso specifico, importanti, ben oltre il lor numero (settecento). Da anni, molti, non leggevo un libro così. Così bello, così denso, così esigente, così ricco. Arrivato a metà, ho istintivamente rallentato, per non finirlo troppo presto, per gustarlo a fondo, distillarlo. Quando l’ho chiuso per l’ultima volta, ho deciso di tenerlo ancora sul comodino, di non metterlo subito via sullo scaffale, di non separarmene bruscamente e abituarmi con calma al silenzio che custodisce il ricordo di Strum, Zenja, Krymov e altri centocinquanta personaggi. Che forse non diventeranno mai assenza. Quando ho iniziato non avevo la giusta concentrazione, le parole mi bussavano al cervello, ma non venivano assorbite, come l’olio dall’acqua. Infatti, dopo duecento pagine mi son fermato, l’ho posato ed è rimasto a lungo in attesa. Finalmente, l’ho ripreso, dalla prima pagina, e da quel momento si è messo in moto un piacere puro che è durato per tutta la lettura, senza cedimenti, cali, stanchezza. Ho dovuto aiutarmi guardando cartine geografiche, con una mappa dei personaggi, che sono sterminati come la steppa e l’umanità dei lager e dei gulag, tutti provvisti di nome cognome patronimico e uno, se non due, diminuitivi; mi sono scontrato con i tenenti colonnelli e i tenenti generali e i commissari, le divisioni, le unità, i reggimenti, i battaglioni. Una fatica pienamente ripagata. Grossman affronta il suo racconto senza paura e senza soggezione. Eppure ci sarebbe da tremare: l’universo concentrazionario dal punto di vista di un osservatore e non della vittima. Grossman conosce la materia, l’ha vista da vicino, c’era quando è successo. È una marcia in più, uno sguardo tanto più acuto profondo e illuminante. Conosce il cielo di cemento, i muscoli forti dell’acciaio, i crateri delle bombe, un fiume allagato di fiamme, il freddo la fame e la paura, un mondo di spie e uomini non fra i migliori, parecchi dei quali hanno guardato il male dall’alto in basso, mentre la morte faceva il suo lavoro e gli uomini il proprio. Poi, il suo talento ha fatto il resto. Non credo nella bontà universale, nel bene generato dal socialismo o dal cristianesimo. Credo nei piccoli atti di generosità. Così dice uno dei personaggi di queste settecento pagine, e sembra di sentire Cechov. Coerentemente, a me sembra che qui la condanna sia per ogni forma di totalitarismo, non solo quello nazista e sovietico: come se Grossman dicesse che basta ci sia un solo ghetto perché tutto il mondo viva nel ghetto, che basta un solo gulag perché nessuno possa sentirsi libero. Non è per lettori frettolosi, direi: ma a tutti saprà regalare bellezza e profondità. Alexandr Deineka: Difesa di Sebastopoli, 1942.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I have to use the “M” word for this panoramic portrayal of the Soviet experience of World War 2—masterpiece. I was moved and uplifted, enlightened and devastated, and ultimately made into a better person wit more empathy and understanding of the human condition. This is an insider’s view, as is made clear by the wonderful background provided by the translator, Robert Chandler. Grossman was a Ukrainian Jew who studied chemistry in his youth, became a novelist with the support of Gorky, and with t I have to use the “M” word for this panoramic portrayal of the Soviet experience of World War 2—masterpiece. I was moved and uplifted, enlightened and devastated, and ultimately made into a better person wit more empathy and understanding of the human condition. This is an insider’s view, as is made clear by the wonderful background provided by the translator, Robert Chandler. Grossman was a Ukrainian Jew who studied chemistry in his youth, became a novelist with the support of Gorky, and with the advent of war became a renowned war correspondent who covered Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin and who pieced together for the first time in print the hidden story of the operations of a German death camp, Treblinka. This book was completed in 1960, but the manuscript was seized and suppressed by the KGB. Fortunately, a copy was smuggled out a decade later (through the efforts of Sakharov and Voinovitch) and reached print in the West in the early 80s. The novel is very ambitious in portraying seminal events from a range of perspectives, from peasants to scientists, from partisans to generals, with brief forays into viewpoint of German soldiers as well. What helps with integration across its broad scope is that most of the stories are confined to the Winter of 1942-43 during which the Battle of Stalingrad became the turning point in the war. Also, in the tradition of “War and Peace” (which I haven’t read), the narrative places various members of one large extended family at the core of most of the scenarios used to bring to life a nation and a society at war: the elderly Shaposhnikova matriarch, stuck in Ukraine at the onset of war, ends up confined by the Germans in a Jewish ghetto that is later massacred; her son Viktor, a Jewish theoretical physicist who is driven by pure science and tested in his integrity by politics; his wife’s ex-husband, who is placed in a Soviet work camp among Trotsky-style Bolsheviks purged in 1937; his sister-in-law who is torn between her ex-husband and her fiancé, the first a party true-believer who serves as a political officer in Stalingrad and is later falsely accused and imprisoned in Moscow as a traitor, and the latter a colonel of a tank brigade who leads the Soviet counterstrike at Stalingrad; Viktor’s sister, a Moscow physician caught while traveling, bravely experiences a trip by cattle car to meet her fate in a gas chamber. There is a pervasive tender compassion for all, but not for the true enemies, the totalitarian states of Hitler and Stalin, which Grossman shows to be mirrored twins in so many ways. Grossman’s compassion comes from wanting to give voice to the dead, such as his own mother, who was killed with about 30,000 other Jews in Bedichev in Ukraine and to whom the book is dedicated. Like others writers who have borne witness to the Holocaust, he is concerned with how it affects our conception of what it means to be human and the nature of good and evil. How so many held on forlornly to hope and passively obeyed. How millions could ignore what was happening and let people be led like lambs to the slaughter. And how others rebelled and resisted, in small ways or at great risk to themselves. Grossman breaks through from the narrative to speak of these things, but mostly he brings these themes to life through his characters, and in both approaches uses transcendent language full of sublime or horrific beauty. Reading this book takes a special commitment, not just of the investment of time it takes to read such a massive tome, but also in emotional trust that it will not just wrench you pitilessly and leave you like a rag in despair. Grossman somehow achieves the miracle of infusing hope at every turn in a way that transcends death. For example, there is a point where a poet in a work camp expounds on how simple human kindness, such as sharing a scrap of bread with an enemy, is a core of humanity that persists despite all brutality and despair. In this quote, Viktor’s mother speaks eloquently of resilient hope in a letter to him from a doomed Jewish ghetto: The more sorrow there is in man, the less hope he has of survival—the better, the kinder, the more generous he becomes. The poorest people, the tailors and tinsmiths, the ones without hope, are so much nobler, more generous and more intelligent than the people who’ve somehow managed to lay by a few provisions. The young schoolmistresses; Spilberg, the eccentric old teacher and chess-player; the timid women who work in the library; Reyvich, the engineer, who’s more helpless than a child, yet dreams of arming the ghetto with hand-made grenades—what wonderful, impractical, dear, sad, good people they all are! … People carry on, Vitra, as though their whole life lies ahead of them. It’s impossible to say if that is wise or foolish—it’s just the way people are. The woman doctor in her last moments is here uplifted by communion with a boy she helped on the cattle-car to the gas chamber: Her eyes—which have read Homer, Izvestia, Huckleberry Finn and Mayne Reid, that had looked at good people and bad people, that had seen the geese in the green meadows of Kursk, the stars above the observatory at Pulkovo, the glitter of surgical steel, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, tomatoes and turnips in the bins at market, the blue water of Issyk-Kul—her eyes were no longer of any use to her. If someone had blinded her, she would have felt no sense of loss. …Sofya Levinton felt the boy’s body subside in her arms. …This boy, with his slight, bird-like body, has left before her. “I’ve become a mother,” she thought. That was her last thought. Her heart, however, still had life in it: it contracted, ached, and felt pity for all of you, both living and dead; Sofya Osipovna felt a wave of nausea. She pressed David, now a doll, to herself; she became dead, a doll. The political commissar in the besieged tractor factory at Stalingrad is suddenly uplifted by music in a pause in the fighting: Somehow the music seemed to have helped him understand time. Time is a transparent medium. People and cities rise out of it, move through it and disappear back into it. It is time that brings them and time that takes them away. … Such is time: everything passes, it alone remains; everything remains, it alone passes. And how swiftly and noiselessly it passes. Only yesterday you were sure of yourself, strong and cheerful, a son of the time. But now another time has come—and you don’t even know it. In yesterday’s fighting, time has been torn to shreds; now it emerged again from the plywood fiddle belonging to Rubunchik the barber. This fiddle told some that their time had come and others that their time had passed. ‘I’m finished,’ Krymov said to himself. ‘Finished!’ … Suddenly, Krymov remembered one summer night: the large, dark eyes of a Cossack girl and her hot whisper … Yes, in spite of everything, life was good. The fiddler stopped and a quiet murmur became audible: the sound of the water flowing by under the wooden duckboards. It seemed to Krymov that his soul was indeed a well that had been dry and empty; but now it was gently filling with water. I end this excessively long review with samples of the many kernels of truth that help make the journey of this book worthwhile: Having established man’s readiness to obey when confronted with limitless violence, we must go on to draw one further conclusion that is of importance for an understanding of man and his future. Does human nature overcome a true change in the cauldron of totalitarian violence? Does man lose his innate yearning for freedom? The fate of both man and the totalitarian State depends on the answer to this question. If human nature does change, then the eternal and world-wide triumph of the dictatorial State is assured; if his yearning for freedom remains constant, then the totalitarian State is doomed. From examples over history of individual and group defiance of these destructive forces, Grossman finds that: All these bear witness to the indestructability of man’s yearning for freedom. The yearning was suppressed but it continues to exist. Man’s fate may make him a slave, but his nature remains unchanged. Man’s innate yearning for freedom can be suppressed but never destroyed. Totalitarianism cannot renounce violence. If it does, it perishes. eternal, ceaseless violence, overt or covert, is the basis of totalitarianism. Man does not renounce freedom voluntarily. This conclusion holds out hope for our time, hope for our future. In the words of a poet in a Soviet work camp, I find sustenance in Grossman’s vision of the eternal in individual consciousness: When a person dies, they cross over from the realm of freedom to the realm of slavery. … What constitutes the freedom, the soul of an individual life, is its uniqueness. The reflection of the universe in someone’s consciousness is the foundation of his or her power, but life only becomes happiness, is only endowed with freedom and meaning when someone exists as a whole world that has never been repeated in all eternity. Only then can they experience the joy of freedom and kindness, finding in others what they have already found in themselves.

  3. 4 out of 5

    William2

    When I first learned that Vasily Grossman's model for this novel was War and Peace, I thought he was setting his sights astronomically--not to say unattainably--high. There are huge differences between the two books, of course. Remember Tolstoy's lovely modulated long sentences? Grossman doesn't even try to compete on that level. By contrast, his language tends toward the so-called "Soviet" realism of the day. This was a style in which many of the Party hacks also wrote. The difference between When I first learned that Vasily Grossman's model for this novel was War and Peace, I thought he was setting his sights astronomically--not to say unattainably--high. There are huge differences between the two books, of course. Remember Tolstoy's lovely modulated long sentences? Grossman doesn't even try to compete on that level. By contrast, his language tends toward the so-called "Soviet" realism of the day. This was a style in which many of the Party hacks also wrote. The difference between those scribblers and Grossman is the fact that he told the truth. Nor is there anything in Life and Fate to compare with Tolstoy's fantastic scenes of the nobility. There's no crystal or caviar, no six-horse barouches, no perfumed décolletage, no placid landscapes, and of course no character even remotely like Field Marshal Kutuzov who, when he hears of the retreating French, mutters to himself: "I shall make them eat horse meat!" Late in Life and Fate, however, when the Germans encircled at Stalingrad were hacking away at a frozen horse, this reader could think of nothing else. This is the first book I've read that has given me a sense of how World War II affected the whole of the USSR. It's all here: the Battle for Stalingrad, the Siege of Leningrad, the evacuation of Moscow and other major cities, life in the country, the miserable rationing system, the sheer sense of deprivation. The canvas is huge but Grossman, who can describe entire crowds in a brief paragraph, never pulls focus so far back that the individual is lost. This approach, the only one possible, seems a refutation of the Communist raison d'être itself. One is reminded why so much of the Communist Party agitprop failed. It was not only because it was horribly written--though in the West even poorly written pulp novels are to a certain extent readable, see Philip K. Dick et al.--no, it was because agitprop ignored the individual, who, when he or she did appear, was rendered meaningful only to the extent that he or she supported the group. It goes without saying of course that novels are dependent on characters, not crowds. Grossman's narrative consists of the following interlarded story lines involving a single extended family, the Shaposhnikovs. What I will provide here is just the barest outline. First, there's physicist Viktor Pavlovich Shtrum, married to the shrill Lyudmila Nikolaevna. Viktor, a great theoretical genius and a Jew, undergoes a crisis of conscience. How can he possibly support his criminal, genocidal state? The crisis all but tears him to pieces. He's also in love with a colleague's wife, so there's ample heartbreak. Second is the story of the Battle for Stalingrad before and after the German capitulation. Here, one Krymov, a political commissar, and as such, like his fellows, a perpetual thorn in the side of army officers, discovers that no amount of blind alliegiance will ever protect him from the capricious and paranoid hand of Beria's state security apparatus. (It's a miracle Stalingrad was won. Thank God for Lend-Lease!) A third story line deals with the remnant of Red Army soldiers who have remained alive in Nazi death camps after the first terrible year of the war during which three-million were captured and killed. Fourth, is the story of Abarchuk, Lyudmila's first husband, and his life in the Gulag. Even Solzhenitzyn's Gulag Archipelago did not prepare me for the drama here. Fifth, we have the story of the indecisive Yevgenia Nikolaevna, and the harm she causes while vacillating between two men: Krymov, the husband she's left, and her new love, Novikov, commander of a tank battalion and one of the heroes of Stalingrad. There's much more, of course. No summary can do even provisional justice to this 900 pager. Grossman's style is deceptively flat. Look at how concisely he describes an entire barrack's full of people, one at a time. It's masterful. Or the way he evokes the moods of the Volga and the apocalyptic cityscape of Stalingrad. What was especially interesting to me was how adroitly he switched from one subplot to another while sustaining interest. If he has a tendency toward the occassional purplish passage, and a penchant for pseudo-philosophical musings, he makes up for it with the overarching thrust of his narrative. Grossman transcends his model. I've never read anything like it. Recommended with brio!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Жизнь и судьба = Zhizn i sadba = Life and Fate: a novel (Stalingrad #2), Vasily Grossman Life and Fate (Russian: Жизнь и судьба) is a 1960 novel by Vasily Grossman and is seen as the author's magnum opus. Technically, it is the second half of the author's conceived two-part book under the same title. Although the first half, the novel For a Just Cause, written during the rule of Joseph Stalin and first published in 1952, expresses loyalty to the regime, Life and Fate sharply criticises Stalinism. Жизнь и судьба = Zhizn i sadba = Life and Fate: a novel‬ (Stalingrad #2), Vasily Grossman Life and Fate (Russian: Жизнь и судьба) is a 1960 novel by Vasily Grossman and is seen as the author's magnum opus. Technically, it is the second half of the author's conceived two-part book under the same title. Although the first half, the novel For a Just Cause, written during the rule of Joseph Stalin and first published in 1952, expresses loyalty to the regime, Life and Fate sharply criticises Stalinism. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهارم ماه اکتبر سال 1999 میلادی عنوان: زندگی و سرنوشت؛ نویسنده: واسیلی گروسمن؛ مترجم: سروش حبیبی؛ ویراستار: سرز استپانیان؛ تهران، سروش، 1377؛ در 919 ص؛ شابک: 9644353102؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نیلوفر، 1386؛ شابک: 9789644483660؛ برگردان از متن: انگلیسی؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 20 م واسیلی گروسمن، در آغاز حمله ی آرتش آلمان نازی به روسیه، در سال 1941 میلادی، به عنوان خبرنگار جنگی، در نبرد حضور داشتند. ایشان در حمله ی نازی‌ها مادر نازنین خویش را از دست دادند، و پس از پایان جنگ نیز، همین پژوهش خود را آغاز کردند. گروسمن پس از پایان پژوهش خویش، اعلام کرده که: استالین (دیکتاتور شوروی) چیزی از هیتلر (رهبر آلمان نازی) کم ندارد. وی برای اعلام این نظریه ی خویش، همین رمان «زندگی و سرنوشت» را به رشته تحریر درآوردند، که یادگار خواهد ماند. ا. شربیانی

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    A confession in three parts I Well, I was completely wrong about this book, and I am pleased to admit it. To nuance that, if I was going to give it a Goodreads star rating it would be two star, maybe two and a half, or 2.47. I was even so unwise to tell a very dear friend that in my opinion it was no more than a 20th century rewrite of War and Peace, which it is but importantly it emphatically is not. I had also imagined that it was about the battle of Stalingrad, reading, I see that really A confession in three parts I Well, I was completely wrong about this book, and I am pleased to admit it. To nuance that, if I was going to give it a Goodreads star rating it would be two star, maybe two and a half, or 2.47. I was even so unwise to tell a very dear friend that in my opinion it was no more than a 20th century rewrite of War and Peace, which it is but importantly it emphatically is not. I had also imagined that it was about the battle of Stalingrad, reading, I see that really it is about anti-Semitism, actually the issue of being Jewish in modern totalitarian states (in which number I include on the grounds of laziness the so-called nation-states which have admittedly increasingly only implicit notions of exclusivity). ( Part 2, chapter 31 treats anti-semitism in detail but it is present throughout in a range of forms, notably none of the Jewish characters seem to be observant, nor Yiddish speaking, while people who use Ukrainian words are pointed out but don't experience prejudice). It is also an explosively anti-soviet book, which was banned because it hurt the Soviet regime where it really hurt (ie in the Party's claim to have played a guiding role in achieving victory in WWII, here even the 'fighting commissars' are just another level of privileged people confusing the command structure and telling tales on the serious soldiers who want to fight effectively and efficiently without massive casualties) I now see that Solzhenitsyn was by contrast with Grossman merely a literary Donald Trump or Nigel Farage - an exemplar of the politics of the whinging of the relatively privileged citizen. It is rather journalistic, less a novel than a series of reports with reoccurring characters and themes, but do I imagine that it will live with me like War and Peace no, not for an instant, and yet it emphatically is not War and Peace and so will find its own place. II Let me drain the glass and roll up my sleeves. I don't know. And specifically I don't know what kind of achievement Life and Fateis. Firstly a very basic problem, if you grab a copy and hold it before you - it's ok, take your time, I am not going anywhere, what you have is not what the author intended. Grossman died in 1964. The MSS down to his typewriter ribbons had been taken from him by the KGB in 1960 and it remains with them and now I guess, lays in some FSB storage facility, however somehow two MSes emerged and were microfilmed, these microfilms were smuggled out of the USSR and constructed into a text published in 1980. This reconstruction has been translated, in my edition missing sections are marked with an ellipses. How complete the version current available is, or how far or close it is to the author's vision we can not know, what we have represents a work in progress, interrupted. IIa I confess I read War and Peace first and that this was and was not a mistake. It is hard to come across opinion of Life and Fate which does not refer to War and Peace, this is understandable and unhelpful, I, a miserable sinner, carried my memories of War and Peace into my reading of this and it was a glass of vinegar poured into my jug of milk. W&P is a tight family saga over a long period of time, it has the implicit message that we have to understand people in the context of the spirit of their times plus the effects of the times they live through - the people of 1805 are different in 1825 in response to what has happened to them in those twenty years. L&F begins in media res - like an epic. It follows an awful lot of people over a short period of time most of their stories are not given any-kind of closure or conclusion. Sometimes characters are introduced only to die, abruptly or after an interval sometimes after several hundred pages a connection emerges between a couple of characters in separate locations. One might say it is rather like the Iliad. If like me you set to reading L&F imagining it to be as I wrongly thought a WWII, 20th century W&P, the effect is disconcerting, one is overlaying Tolstoyian expectations on a writer who was attempting to tell a different kind of story. While Tolstoy tells the story of the growth Russian chauvinism as a good thing, Grossman sees this differently, again the war is transformative, but he sees the death of Internationalism and tolerance for diversity within the Soviet Union as a narrow and exclusive Russian nationalism comes to the fore in which Russian come first for promotions and non-Russians are objects of suspicion and assumed to be unworthy. Tolstoy was never interested in tolerance in W&P, but Grossman writes himself close to the centre of the 20th century experience, exclusive forms of identity quickly become exclusionary and given to persecute minorities, the purist example of this is Fascist Germany the opposite extreme would be the tolerance of Chekhovian Democracy, but this hasn't existed anywhere so far. (view spoiler)[ I guess there are some people who may not have heard yet how WWII turns out and would prefer not to have the ending spoiled(view spoiler)[ There's an irony for Grossman in the Soviet Union delivering the killing blow to Fascism as people celebrate to the north of the now liberated Stalingrad, Grossman tells us that ten years later forced labourers will complete work on a dam at that spot - a touch which reminded me pleasantly of The Leopard (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] . Grossman express his philosophical difference from Tolstoy in his characterisation as well, if as above for Tolstoy character is the past plus events for Grossman the only reality is change, his characters are mysteries even to themselves and spend at times the latter part of a chapter wondering why they responded in a certain way at the beginning of it, acting 'in character' is a luxury that they aspire to. In practise a physicist is ashamed that he signed a letter letter which his friends believe he wouldn't have done, a soldier wonders why in company he culminated against the Kalmyks when he actually had found them very interesting people and not at all despicable, this sense of flux is reinforced by the fact that characters are continually in motion, soldiers moving up towards the front, civilians in evacuation quarters begining to move back to Moscow or to a hole in the ground in what was Stalingrad, on a boat going somewhere searching for an injured son, queuing for news of an imprisoned ex-husband. Everybody is in motion. The story feels as though it spills out of the book, the officer ordered to Headquarters - is he going to be executed, imprisoned, reassigned to a different command, will the gentlemen in the Lubyanka be sent north of the Arctic Circle or to the Far East? Will another officer be able to meet up again with the elegant lady of mature years to whom he gracefully lost at cards with the hope of wining at love? And at the same time in the same breathe, I confess further L&F is profoundly interwoven with W&P, indeed with much of the canon of Russian Literature. A section in the aforementioned Lubyanka reminded me of Dostoevsky's Grand inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, indeed the informant and the inquisitor are the moral guardians of this state just as in Ivan Karamazov's Spanish fantasy. There's a reference to Gogol's story of how the two Ivans quarrelled, and various references to W&P from a reversal of Tolstoy's fleeing soldier giving a false impression of the whole battle to one character telling another to the latter's indignation and rage that W&P is a fiction - Tolstoy wasn't even alive at the time of the events (thereby hinting to us that we can accept L&F as having a greater degree of veracity). Anyway in the Lubyanka - possibly my favourite section in the novel while one character under interrogation has a vision of the ideal society rather like Christ in BK wanting to kiss the Inquisitor another who had been in the Cheka recounts watching the political prisoners march out in columns to work under the Northern Lights on a railway north of the Arctic circle, most of them will die and the railway will barely serve any useful purpose, but to the prisoner that sight was pure poetry, when in 1984 we are told of the vision of a boot stamping on a face for all eternity we never get a sense that this is an aesthetically moving experience rather just a crude expression of power, here the suffering of others has become poetry and the prisoner goes on to outline his vision of the Gulag and the non-gulag becoming one - in a system of political original sin as it were, everybody obviously belongs in prison, were their labour can be optimally utilised, in this vision Stalin is Pharaoh and deviation from his will the only crime, one of which everyone is guilty, and the purpose of labour to fulfil his vision, in short Grossman sums up in two paragraphs the whole of The First Circle except for the silk underwear and the telephone boxes (view spoiler)[ don't get over excited (hide spoiler)] . III Which means that I must confess that after rambling on I guess I think this book is closer to four stars than to my original position, not a masterpiece but certainly a contender. Its vision of the spectrum of tolerance shading into intolerance is wide ranging - an officer receives a letter from his sweetheart in which she tells him that she is going to stick with her ex-husband who it seems will be sent into exile - shades of Nekrasov here - at this the officer deploys several choice words and expresses his wish to strike her on the jaw - the natural end point of patriotism for Grossman is narcissism, Russians first, another way of saying me first, or me only. How far away we are from Chekhov and the tolerance he showed for the strange wanderings and distinctive needs of the human heart. Anyway on the downside for me this novel only really got going and started to feel like a potential masterpiece after page 600, which in a 870 page book is more than just a slow start, so I can't recommend it universally, it could be the great 20th century novel with WWII as the central event of the century and anti-semitism the central feature of that war. The book is then in that way a brick in the hard road to a tolerant society.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maria Clara

    Sin duda, es un libro duro pero también, o sobretodo, retrata la humanidad de las personas. Se puede decir que es una crónica de la segunda guerra mundial vista desde la batalla de Stalingrado; pasando por campos de concentración alemanes, los Gulag rusos y el día a día de la guerra, con todos sus horrores. PD: Como anécdota, cuando Grossman terminó de escribir el libro, la KGB irrumpió en su piso y confiscó todos sus apuntes y documentos... "Le pido que devuelva la libertad a mi libro, pido que Sin duda, es un libro duro pero también, o sobretodo, retrata la humanidad de las personas. Se puede decir que es una crónica de la segunda guerra mundial vista desde la batalla de Stalingrado; pasando por campos de concentración alemanes, los Gulag rusos y el día a día de la guerra, con todos sus horrores. PD: Como anécdota, cuando Grossman terminó de escribir el libro, la KGB irrumpió en su piso y confiscó todos sus apuntes y documentos... "Le pido que devuelva la libertad a mi libro, pido que mi libro se discuta con editores, no con los agentes de la KGB. ¿Qué sentido tiene que yo sea físicamente libre cuando el libro al que he dedicado mi vida es arrestado?... No renuncio a él... Pido libertad para mi libro".

  7. 4 out of 5

    Magrat Ajostiernos

    Reseña completa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V0py... Aunque este libro está ambientado durante la batalla de Stalingrado, realmente lo que muestra son retazos de vidas durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial... Puntos de vista muy dispares, personajes que sufrieron desde los campos de trabajo a los de concentración, el asedio, las bombas, la vida en el frente y la angustia por los familiares desaparecidos. 'Vida y destino' es mucho más que una crónica, habla de arte, literatura, dignidad, amor... Reseña completa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V0py... Aunque este libro está ambientado durante la batalla de Stalingrado, realmente lo que muestra son retazos de vidas durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial... Puntos de vista muy dispares, personajes que sufrieron desde los campos de trabajo a los de concentración, el asedio, las bombas, la vida en el frente y la angustia por los familiares desaparecidos. 'Vida y destino' es mucho más que una crónica, habla de arte, literatura, dignidad, amor... está plagado de dudas y sufrimiento y hubo un capítulo en especial que me rompió el corazón. Aún así lo he disfrutado muchísimo, por su crítica política tanto al comunismo como al fascismo, como especialmente por esa brutal humanidad que desprende.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    When you consider the steps that had to be taken to smuggle this novel out of the Soviet Union, painstakingly photographed page by page on microfilm, you cannot but marvel at the determination and effort made by believers in the power of the written word to bring such important stories to light. This epic novel is, along with Victor Serge's stunning masterwork Unforgiving Years , the best fictional depiction I've read of the barbaric inhumanity of the Soviet experience in the Second World War a When you consider the steps that had to be taken to smuggle this novel out of the Soviet Union, painstakingly photographed page by page on microfilm, you cannot but marvel at the determination and effort made by believers in the power of the written word to bring such important stories to light. This epic novel is, along with Victor Serge's stunning masterwork Unforgiving Years , the best fictional depiction I've read of the barbaric inhumanity of the Soviet experience in the Second World War and the tests of faith suffered by ardent communists as the horrifying truth that their fatherland was become a despotic police state became more and more unavoidable. What inner agonies must Grossman and Serge have endured, going to their graves believing that these works of art - which they had sweated blood in wringing forth from the shopworn and suppurating experiences inflicted upon them by endless violence, strife, and war in relatively brief lives - were destined to have an audience of but a handful of loyal friends; or, in Grossman's case, of arrogantly presumptive party apparatchiks and a cultural minister who inflicted further wounds upon the author's sorely tried soul by announcing that it would never see the light of publication ere two hundred years had passed, and it could no longer be deemed harmful to the cause of the glorious state. Life and Fate is a vast, sprawling and impassioned novel that is centered around the final months of the Battle of Stalingrad, the pivotal turning point for Communist Russia in the Second World War. This is a kaleidoscopic novel, focusing on the lives of a number of interrelated families and individuals scattered from Moscow to the cold, empty deserts of the Kalmyk steppes. Grossman, who was a war reporter at the Stalingrad front during the war, brings a piercing realism to his depictions of the courage, tenacity and camaraderie of the Russian soldiers defending the burnt-out husk of a city, and the despair and suffering of those under both the Nazi and Bolshevik lash. Indeed, the book's principal goal is to show how individuals are broken, and life made unbearable, under the crushing weight of the totalitarian state. Grossman masterfully depicts the treacheries and petty competitions amongst the nomenklatura in an effort to show their devotion to Stalin, and their eagerness to denounce others to win an ephemeral favor. We are given glimpses inside the articulated hell of concentration camps and gulags; made melancholy observers of the final, bestial march of a band of doomed Jews from cattle-cars to charnel house showers; and we make the long and heartrending journey down the bitterly cold, indifferent Volga with a grieving mother, enduring all manner of discomfort and danger to find her severely wounded son. There are flaws in this sprawling story: interesting storylines and characters introduced early on are abandoned; there is a flatness, almost a journalistic feel (perhaps intentional), to certain episodes and personalities; and sidebars with some of the Russian soldiers feel tacked on. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles, and the central pivot of the novel - the travails and Jewish-based ostracism of the nuclear physicist Viktor Shtrum - is a brilliantly delineated narrative of the soul-crushing effects of a Soviet purge. We squirm as Viktor oscillates between a desire to vigorously defend himself from a baseless hostility, and a resignation to meekly beg for forgiveness for his manufactured crime. A vital novel for fans of Soviet literature and those who seek a clearer understanding of the brutality of life in wartime Russia.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Both epic in scope and intimate in detail, this powerhouse novel had me riveted from the very beginning. The prose style is spare yet luminous. Many have mentioned Chekhov as model for the writing style, and that feels right to me. There are some truly haunting scenes in this book. But it's the constant juxtaposition of the tragic and the comic, the grand and the banal, that gives this novel its true heft.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    4 1/2 Grossman stands in the tradition of the Russian novelists of the nineteenth century. His characters, like Dostoevsky's, engage in great philosophical debates; and the structure of Life and Fate is loosely based on that of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Ideologically, however, the model to which Grossman admitted to feeling closest was Chekhov… who brought into Russian literature a new kind of humanism based on the ideas of freedom and loving kindness. Tzvetan Todorov Grossman during the Second Word 4 1/2 Grossman stands in the tradition of the Russian novelists of the nineteenth century. His characters, like Dostoevsky's, engage in great philosophical debates; and the structure of Life and Fate is loosely based on that of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Ideologically, however, the model to which Grossman admitted to feeling closest was Chekhov… who brought into Russian literature a new kind of humanism based on the ideas of freedom and loving kindness. Tzvetan Todorov Grossman during the Second Word War, a war correspondent for Krasnaya Zvezda The translator, Robert Chandler, has contributed a useful Introduction, going through biographical info on Grossman (1905-1964), critical judgements of the book and Grossman's writings in general, and the history of the writing and suppressed publication of the novel. Grossman had delivered the novel to officials in 1960, clearly believing it could be published. Apparently it was read by several higher-ups, some of whom thought it was very good – but ultimately judged by one that it could only be published "perhaps in two or three hundred years". It was considered subversive enough that everything the authorities could get their hands one was confiscated, right down to the writer's typewriter ribbon. It was not published at all until 1980, in the West, using microfilm of the entire novel that had been smuggled out of the Soviet Union; and was finally published in Russia in 1988. It's sometimes called Stalingrad #2, but that's certainly not any indication that "#1" needs to be read first. I'd never heard of #1 (For a Just Cause) until reading about it in Chandler's introduction, where he writes that Life and Fateis better seen as a separate novel that includes many of the same characters. It is important not only as literature but also as history; we have no more complete picture of Stalinist Russia. The power of other dissident writers – Shalamov, Solzhenitsyn, Nadezhda Mandelstam – derives from their position as outsiders; Grossman's power derives at least in part from his intimate knowledge of every level of Soviet society. In Life and Fate, Grossman achieves what many other Soviet writers struggled but failed to achieve: a portrait of an entire age. The novel consists of three parts, each composed of 60-70 fairly shorts chapters. One or more chapters comprise what might be termed a single "scene" – though some scenes can be found which run in non-consecutive chapters. Scenes (defined in this way) are set in a German concentration camp, a Russian labor camp, a "journey to the gas chamber", the Lubyanka prison, a German fighter squadron, a Russian tank corps, and several locations in Stalingrad. The story is built around the Shaposhnikov family and their acquaintances, and takes place mostly during the Second World War conflagration between Germany and Russia. There are some historical figures in the novel, but aside from Stalin and Hitler, they are all officers in one army or the other. When these appear Grossman is obviously presenting a historical scene meant to be reasonably accurate – when fictional characters touch the outskirts of these scenes we move into obviously historical fiction, much as Tolstoy's War and Peace is constructed. Like Tolstoy, Grossman fashions scenes in Life and Fate which carry the narrative along from the perspective of the "enemy" (German) point of view. A very long book, but I found it a comparatively fast read. The third person narrative, which I found a bit dry in places, uses quite a bit of dialogue, both normal and "inner" dialogue (thoughts of the characters). If you have any interest in the Eastern Front, particularly in the Battle of Stalingrad, or a story of the Stalin era, this is a Russian novel you might like. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: Ancestral Passions The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings Random review: The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony Next review: The Open Society and Its Enemies Previous library review: Complete Poems Anna Akhmatova Next library review: Immortality

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elena

    Leer este libro ha sido toda una experiencia. Al principio es difícil y denso (Vasili Grossman fue corresponsal de guerra y eso se nota) y hay que perseverar y no ofuscarse ante tanto personaje y dato histórico, pero una vez ubicada el resultado fue 1104 páginas devoradas en dos semanas. Lo mejor es cómo Vasili Grossman consigue desgranar el alma humana en tiempos de guerra (Segunda Guerra Mundial, en el frente Oriental- Soviético) desde muchos puntos de vista diferentes. Las madres, la ciencia, Leer este libro ha sido toda una experiencia. Al principio es difícil y denso (Vasili Grossman fue corresponsal de guerra y eso se nota) y hay que perseverar y no ofuscarse ante tanto personaje y dato histórico, pero una vez ubicada el resultado fue 1104 páginas devoradas en dos semanas. Lo mejor es cómo Vasili Grossman consigue desgranar el alma humana en tiempos de guerra (Segunda Guerra Mundial, en el frente Oriental- Soviético) desde muchos puntos de vista diferentes. Las madres, la ciencia, la literatura los soldados rasos, los soldados de altos cargos, los soviéticos, los alemanes, los judíos, las mujeres, los ancianos, los niños. Todos tienen su voz en este libro. Todos estos distintos puntos de vista hacen que sea necesario sacrificar explotar al máximo sus personajes, pero en este caso, compensa, porque lo importante es conocer la situación global. Dicen que Vida y Destino es el Guerra y Paz del Siglo XX, y puedo ver perfectamente por qué, y después de una experiencia lectora intensa sé que es una historia que va a permanecer conmigo.

  12. 5 out of 5

    piperitapitta

    Se dovessi raccontare a qualcuno in poche parole cos'è «Vita e Destino», per spiegargli la struttura di quello che è, prima di tutto, un romanzo immenso per mole e quantità di storie e personaggi che si intrecciano, gli direi di guardare questa foto e di pensare a cosa succede quando un vetro è attraversato da una pallottola; al foro provocato dall'esplosione e a tutta quella ragnatela che immediatamente si propaga da una parte all'altra dello stesso vetro, pronta a frantumarsi e a crollare all' Se dovessi raccontare a qualcuno in poche parole cos'è «Vita e Destino», per spiegargli la struttura di quello che è, prima di tutto, un romanzo immenso per mole e quantità di storie e personaggi che si intrecciano, gli direi di guardare questa foto e di pensare a cosa succede quando un vetro è attraversato da una pallottola; al foro provocato dall'esplosione e a tutta quella ragnatela che immediatamente si propaga da una parte all'altra dello stesso vetro, pronta a frantumarsi e a crollare all'improvviso. Ecco, gli direi a questo punto, quel foro è Stalingrado, la Battaglia di Stalingrado, il focus del romanzo di Vassilij Grossman, il centro di tutto, l'unico posto al mondo dove mai, dopo aver letto «Le Benevole» di Jonathan Littell, avrei pensato e desiderato tornare: allora nelle trincee e tra le linee tedesche, nella mente folle e gelida di Max Aue, oggi dall'altra parte del campo di battaglia, in mezzo ai carristi e gli ufficiali russi, e alle donne, e ai bambini. Poi, da lì, da quel buco nero, gli direi di iniziare a seguire i segni sul vetro, ad allontanarsi, a cercare altri piccoli nodi, o forellini, a trovare il punto dove più linee si intersecano, per trovare i campi di concentramento, i lager sovietici, il laboratorio di Fisica di Mosca, i treni che marciano verso la camera a gas, la Lubjanka, la stazione elettrica, la Casa 6/1, la steppa calmucca… Poi gli direi, ancora, di riavvicinarsi a quel foro, e di iniziare a guardare più da vicino quelle linee, quei nodi, perché c'è vita là dentro, ci sono Strum, i suoi dubbi e la sua umana pavidità, e la sua famiglia, Sof'ja e il suo tragico amore materno per David, Ženja e il suo cuore diviso in due, tra Krymov e Novikov, Anna Semënova e la sua dolorosa lettera di addio, Darenskij e l'immensità della steppa, Grekov e la sua umanità disarmante, Abarcuk e la sua integrità morale, Spiridinov e la sua desolazione, e Viktorov che si libra in volo e ritratti di donne struggenti, di uomini umani e bestiali, di aberrazioni che vanno oltre ogni possibile conoscenza, di abiezioni inenarrabili… ma è mai possibile raccontare qualcosa che può solo essere letto e forse riletto per essere compreso in tutte le sue sfumature e in tutto il suo dramma, che appare sì, molto spesso, ottocentesco nella struttura, ma che poi si rivela drammaticamente novecentesco per la vicinanza degli eventi e per la modernità di pensiero che a volte è devastante, è mai possibile raccontarlo? Ho decine e decine di post it elettronici, frasi sottolineate, periodi interi che vorrei riportare, parole che unite tutte insieme, trascritte una dietro l'altra forse darebbero vita a loro volta ad una storia altrettanto bella, talmente tante frasi che se dovessi sceglierne solo una non sarei in grado di farlo; ed è proprio per questo motivo, allora, che senza voltarmi indietro, senza pensare a quello che c'è, e che c'era, senza ripercorrere in un soffio, attraverso lo scorrere rapido delle pagine, tutte quelle vite che spesso senza averne sentore né indizio alcuno correvano inarrestabili ciascuna verso il proprio destino, decido di scegliere l'ultima. E di tornare a Stalingrado, in quel buco nero dove tutto inizia e tutto finisce. «Ed eccola, una vecchia ormai, che vive in perpetua attesa del meglio, e crede, e teme il male, è piena di ansia per la vita degli uomini, enon distingue chi vive da chi è morto, sta qui e guarda le rovine della sua casa, ammira il cielo primaverile senza neanche accorgersi di ammirarlo, sta qui e si chiede perché il futuro di coloro che ama è così intricato, perché la loro vita è costellata di tanti errori, e non si accorge che in questa confusione, in questa nebbia, dolore e groviglio, c'è già la risposta, e chiarezza, e speranza […]» 1 dicembre 2012 (view spoiler)[Il capitolo 49 del secondo libro mi ha uccisa, devastata, straziata. Non so se potrà mai esistere amore tanto grande, nel mondo, per riuscire a perdonare. Come si può perdonare tanto orrore? Nelle miniere, in caso di avvelenamento, gli indicatori di gas, uccellini e topi, muoiono subito. I loro corpi sono piccoli come era piccolo il corpo di David, che se n'era andato prima di lei. «Sono madre» - pensò. Questo fu il suo ultimo pensiero. Ma nel suo cuore c'era ancora vita: si stringeva, duoleva, aveva pietà di voi, uomini vivi e morti. La nausea l'invase. Strinse a sé David, la crisalide, e divenne lei stessa morte crisalide. 9 novembre 2012 (hide spoiler)]

  13. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    This is a huge sprawling novel, centred around the battle of Stalingrad, but weaving in and out and incorporating the Holocaust, the Soviet detention centres, Soviet science under Stalin, life at the front, life at home, and the nature of freedom and humanity. (And I found Grossman's musings on the latter two more readable than Tolstoy's long philosophical digressions, to be perfectly honest.) Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enfor This is a huge sprawling novel, centred around the battle of Stalingrad, but weaving in and out and incorporating the Holocaust, the Soviet detention centres, Soviet science under Stalin, life at the front, life at home, and the nature of freedom and humanity. (And I found Grossman's musings on the latter two more readable than Tolstoy's long philosophical digressions, to be perfectly honest.) Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont

    What an astonishing book Life and Fate is; what an astonishing man Vasily Grossman must have been. I’ve already written a partial assessment of this literary masterpiece on my Ana the Imp blog, a post I headed The Grand Inquisitor, which focused on the contents of a single chapter, one I had just finished, one that literally winded me, both intellectually and emotionally. Well, now I’ve finished the whole novel and it captivated me from beginning to end; captivated me with its intensity, its ran What an astonishing book Life and Fate is; what an astonishing man Vasily Grossman must have been. I’ve already written a partial assessment of this literary masterpiece on my Ana the Imp blog, a post I headed The Grand Inquisitor, which focused on the contents of a single chapter, one I had just finished, one that literally winded me, both intellectually and emotionally. Well, now I’ve finished the whole novel and it captivated me from beginning to end; captivated me with its intensity, its range, its breadth and depth of vision; captivated me with it’s simple humanity. I’ve heard other novels likened to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, most recently The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, a grossly overrated and at points unbelievably dull book. But Life and Fate, with no exaggeration at all, can truly be said to stand in the same literary pantheon as Tolstoy’s panorama; that Grossman found the voice of the Great Patriotic War as Tolstoy found that of the Patriotic War. It’s the kind of novel that I believe only comes once in a generation, perhaps once in a century. I’m not surprised that it was ‘arrested’ because I do not thank I’ve ever read a more damning expose of the moral corruption at the core of the Stalinist state, at the core of all totalitarianism. Grossman was right- absolute truth is the most beautiful thing of all. And absolute truth was the one thing the whole Soviet system, even after Stalin, could never allow, never admit. I’m truly grateful that the attempt to suppress this wonderful book was a failure. I love Russian literature and this is a uniquely Russian book. But Life and Fate is more; it’s a work of insight, empathy and understanding, one that transcends all limits, all boundaries and all nationalities.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    Having read War and Peace a couple of months ago in which Tolstoy pointed out already in the mid nineteenth century the role of accident and fate in the success of military campaigns, thus underlining their futility, I wondered how any European leader could ever have embarked on another takeover knowing the outcome of Napoleon's campaigns. But of course there was WWI and WWII as if nothing had been learned about trusting Emperor style dictators driven by monstrous personal ambition; after Napole Having read War and Peace a couple of months ago in which Tolstoy pointed out already in the mid nineteenth century the role of accident and fate in the success of military campaigns, thus underlining their futility, I wondered how any European leader could ever have embarked on another takeover knowing the outcome of Napoleon's campaigns. But of course there was WWI and WWII as if nothing had been learned about trusting Emperor style dictators driven by monstrous personal ambition; after Napoleon, Europe nevertheless allowed Stalin and then Hitler to rise to power almost unchallenged. Life And Fate deals mostly with the confrontation between the German and the Russian national socialist regimes lead by these two monomaniacs during WWII and again we see how blindly their personal vision was subscribed to by huge numbers of both populations without question. And Grossman points out just as Tolstoy did, how large a role is played by accident and fate in the final outcome.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    The worst reviews, in my humble opinion, are those that begin with this sentence: I really wanted to like this book? Oh? This confounds me? Who starts to read a book that they hope they will not like? Do people really open books they hope will appall them, torture them with typos and improbable plots, confuse them with experimental mazes of style and drown them in gibberish? Isn't every book we start one we hope will be the greatest ever? What kind of twisted reader DOESN'T WANT TO LIKE A BOOK? I The worst reviews, in my humble opinion, are those that begin with this sentence: I really wanted to like this book? Oh? This confounds me? Who starts to read a book that they hope they will not like? Do people really open books they hope will appall them, torture them with typos and improbable plots, confuse them with experimental mazes of style and drown them in gibberish? Isn't every book we start one we hope will be the greatest ever? What kind of twisted reader DOESN'T WANT TO LIKE A BOOK? I really wanted to like this book. Sorry. Was the stinker in me coming out. My point, I think, is that this book comes with a lot of hype. And it sat on my Mt. TBR for a long time (thank you, Karen). I finally stared it down and invested the requisite 3 to 4 weeks. (Did anybody miss me?). I hoped it would be the greatest book ever. It's good. It's real good. But not the greatest ever. The first thing you have to figure out is that there are eight pages of characters listed in the back of the book. This is an essential find. Without this cast of characters you have no hope. Alexandra Vladimirovna Shaposhnikova has three daughters but one of them is already dead. Her daughter Lyudmila Nikolaevna has two husbands but only one is in prison. Lyudmila's husband Viktor Pavlovich Shtrum has discovered nuclear fission but he really just wants to hold hands with Marya Ivanovna Sokolova, his best friend's wife and his wife's best friend. Lyudmila's sister, Yevgenia Nikolaevna (aka Zhenya, Zhenechka and Zhenevyeva) is married to Krymov but is soon to marry Pyotr Pavlovich Novikov. Got it? But while I read, and wished away the patronymics, Grossman would take me onto a cattle car, or a concentration camp, or an oven; and I'd hear the music being played, see the hands being held. I'd feel the cold and the hunger. All in new, shattered light. When Eisenhower got to the first Nazi concentration camp (not even the death camps yet), he stopped and brought the reporters and the cameras in. So the world could see what we were fighting. He could have given the world this book instead and it would have been as real. Come with me, where Grossman took me, inside a cattle car, with the stench and the death. There are so many of us and so few of them. Why can't we take them? Now and again the SS guards glanced at each other and exchanged a few words. Their passage along the platform was like the sun's through the sky. The sun doesn't need to watch over the wind and the clouds, to listen to the sound of the leaves or of a storm at sea; it knows as it follows its smooth path that everything in the world depends on it. And we'd hope anyhow, wouldn't we, that this simply couldn't be true. What saves people when their bovine melancholy, their mute fatalism yields to a piercing sense of horror - what saves people then is the opium of optimism. Grossman answers, too, how Communist party members confessed, informed. You will feel the paranoia of the Soviet State. Stalin at one point asked Yezhov why he carried punitive measures to such an extreme. Yezhov answered that he was simply following Stalin's orders. Wrong answer, Yezhov. There probably is not a more important novel about the experience of the Russian Jew in World War II. At times, the writing soars to glorious heights. Yet, the book seemed more essential than wonderful. I really wanted to like it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A monumental novel in the Great Russian tradition which has been rightly compared with War and Peace. It focuses on the Battle of Stalingrad, but covers a Science Institute, various prison camps and a concentration camp. The list of characters is vast and the dramatis personae in my edition was well used. Grossman was a journalist who covered the Battle of Stalingrad from the front line and his experience shows. However this is, like War and Peace, very much not just a war novel. Its scope is br A monumental novel in the Great Russian tradition which has been rightly compared with War and Peace. It focuses on the Battle of Stalingrad, but covers a Science Institute, various prison camps and a concentration camp. The list of characters is vast and the dramatis personae in my edition was well used. Grossman was a journalist who covered the Battle of Stalingrad from the front line and his experience shows. However this is, like War and Peace, very much not just a war novel. Its scope is broad and it provides a penetrating analysis of the Soviet system and Stalinism in particular. As you would expect the plot is interwoven with numerous themes. Grossman was a Jew and Jewish identity is explored through one of the main characters, the scientist Victor Shtrum. The description of the gas chamber is a very powerful piece of writing, focussing as it does on a child and an unrelated woman who provides comfort. “Her eyes—which have read Homer, Izvestia, Huckleberry Finn and Mayne Reid, that had looked at good people and bad people, that had seen the geese in the green meadows of Kursk, the stars above the observatory at Pulkovo, the glitter of surgical steel, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, tomatoes and turnips in the bins at market, the blue water of Issyk-Kul—her eyes were no longer of any use to her. If someone had blinded her, she would have felt no sense of loss. …Sofya Levinton felt the boy’s body subside in her arms. …This boy, with his slight, bird-like body, has left before her. “I’ve become a mother,” she thought. That was her last thought. Her heart, however, still had life in it: it contracted, ached, and felt pity for all of you, both living and dead; Sofya Osipovna felt a wave of nausea. She pressed David, now a doll, to herself; she became dead, a doll.” Grossman, despite the horrors he describes, clearly still believes in the fundamental goodness of humanity. One of the main focuses of the book is the criticism of Stalinism, the sheer pointless stupidity of a totalitarian regime. A number of the characters in the novel are old Bolsheviks who are struggling to come to terms with Stalin’s regime and especially with the mass arrests of 1937. We see a number of them in camps and prisons trying to create some meaning in their situation. The comparisons with War and Peace have some limitations. Tolstoy was looking back; Grossman was actually there and his journalistic training shines through. He is able to compare the regimes of Hitler and Stalin and note the similarities. This is a great novel which takes you along with its sheer power and the magnificence of the writing. The canvas may sometimes be like a Breughel but Grossman’s writing is suffused with optimism about humanity despite it all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    In questo romanzo fiume sono narrati il destino della grande madre Russia e le vite di tanti suoi cittadini, tutti segnati dai combattimenti durissimi che si svolsero a Stalingrado, lungo le rive del Volga, dall’estate del 1942 al febbraio del 1943, tra i soldati dell’Armata Rossa e l’esercito nazista, passati alla storia come “la battaglia di Stalingrado”. Da quel momento, con la vittoria sofferta dell’esercito sovietico, non solo il destino della seconda guerra mondiale ebbe una svolta, inizia In questo romanzo fiume sono narrati il destino della grande madre Russia e le vite di tanti suoi cittadini, tutti segnati dai combattimenti durissimi che si svolsero a Stalingrado, lungo le rive del Volga, dall’estate del 1942 al febbraio del 1943, tra i soldati dell’Armata Rossa e l’esercito nazista, passati alla storia come “la battaglia di Stalingrado”. Da quel momento, con la vittoria sofferta dell’esercito sovietico, non solo il destino della seconda guerra mondiale ebbe una svolta, iniziando da lì la decadenza delle armate naziste, ma il destino dell’intera Europa cominciò a definirsi, ponendo le basi della futura potenza sovietica che eserciterà il controllo sulla metà orientale del continente europeo fino alla fine del XX secolo. Non è facile parlare in poche righe di questo romanzo mondo, composto da un mosaico di episodi in cui ci si sposta dal fronte russo, tra tenenti colonnelli, colonnelli, generali, in cui leggiamo i loro dialoghi e conosciamo i loro caratteri, dove spicca l’amore immenso per la patria russa, passando al fronte nazista, dove incontriamo il generale Paulus al comando della sesta armata, costretto alla resa finale, oppure entriamo in un palazzo di Stalingrado dove soldati russi affrontano l’assedio di soldati tedeschi, o nelle case di famiglie qualsiasi, colpite negli affetti dalla guerra o dagli eventi accaduti prima che essa scoppiasse (le grandi purghe staliniane), come quella del fisico nucleare Strum, che si dibatte nelle crisi di coscienza che lo colpiscono come scienziato, come marito e padre e come cittadino dello stato comunista, che riflette sui rapporti tra scienza e potere fino al momento della telefonata di Stalin, che segnerà un “prima” e un “dopo”per la sua vita, senza sciogliere i dilemmi che lo assillano. E poi ci sono le pagine strazianti, che urlano dentro il dolore e la sofferenza, del cammino degli ebrei verso la camera a gas, del cammino del piccolo David per mano con Sof'ja Osipovna. Ciò che rende il romanzo di Grossman un unicum nel panorama letterario novecentesco è il respiro epico che attraversa le sue più di ottocento pagine, grazie al quale la storia tragica dei regimi totalitari del secolo scorso che hanno lasciato tremendi spargimenti di sangue e di morte sulla loro strada, quello nazista e quello comunista, viene accomunata da un denominatore comune, l’oppressione dell’essere umano e della sua libertà tanto da ridurre l’uomo in una condizione di remissività totale. E’ quanto accade nei lager tedeschi in Russia, dove sono detenuti prigionieri politici russi insieme a criminali comuni; ma è quanto accade anche nei lager russi, dove sono rinchiusi i nemici del potere stalinista, e nel terrificante palazzo della Lubjanka a Mosca, sede dei servizi segreti. Ma all’interno dello stato che tutti sottomette al suo controllo e subordina alla sua collera, dove le atrocità e le violenze sono all’ordine del giorno, si svolgono le vite dei tanti e tanti personaggi cui accennavo sopra, uomini e donne che si sforzano di rimanere “umani”, fratelli e sorelle nel dolore, rafforzati dalla sofferenza, dalla miseria, dalla fame, per risorgere dalle macerie di un mondo, rappresentato dalla città di Stalingrado appena uscita dalla guerra, in cui, secondo la concezione compassionevole di Grossman, il male sarà sempre vinto dalla bontà spicciola, la bontà senza tanti discorsi, “il semplice gesto di un uomo a favore di un altro uomo”. Un romanzo immenso, stupendo, che commuove, strazia, da cui non riesci a staccarti perché parla dritto al cuore.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Lentz

    This masterpiece published by New York Review of Books Classics enters my Top 5 among novels by James Joyce (Ulysses), Proust (La Recherche du Temps Perdu), Tolstoy (War and Peace) and Gaddis (JR): it is pure genius in its epic scope. Inspired by Tolstoy's War and Peace and the siege of Russia by Napoleon, Grossman depicts the siege of Stalingrad by Hitler. Grossman narrates the epic from the perspectives of diverse players into whose lives the reader becomes immersed. The cast is vast and the R This masterpiece published by New York Review of Books Classics enters my Top 5 among novels by James Joyce (Ulysses), Proust (La Recherche du Temps Perdu), Tolstoy (War and Peace) and Gaddis (JR): it is pure genius in its epic scope. Inspired by Tolstoy's War and Peace and the siege of Russia by Napoleon, Grossman depicts the siege of Stalingrad by Hitler. Grossman narrates the epic from the perspectives of diverse players into whose lives the reader becomes immersed. The cast is vast and the Russian names are daunting to track but Grossman enables us to understand what it was like to experience the fate of Russians in World War II. The catastrophe was overwhelming as millions of people's lives were adversely impacted by the power of two great warring states on the front lines of Stalingrad. Yet somehow the resourcefulness, courage, strength, faith and every virtue of her people, tested under the worst human conditions, Russia was able to withstand the siege of Hitler only to suffer subsequently the immense cruelty of Stalin. The writing in this novel is nothing short of magnificent: it is great literature and profound philosophy by a novelist who knew his subject thoroughly. It's no wonder that Stalin wanted not only the manuscript but its carbon copies because the truth evident in this novel was certainly starkly and baldly critical of the State. At the end of the novel an old woman, Alexandra Vladmirovna, who to me symbolized Mother Russia, returns to the ruins of her home in Stalingrad and admires the spring sky wondering: "why the future of those she loved was so obscure and the past so full of mistakes, not realizing that this very obscurity and unhappiness concealed a strange hope and clarity, not realizing that in the depths of her soul she already knew the meaning of both her life and the lives of her nearest and dearest, not realizing that even though neither she herself nor any of them could tell what was in store, even though they all knew too well that at times like these no man can forge his own happiness and that fate alone has the power to pardon and chastise, to raise up to glory and to plunge into need, to reduce a man to labour camp dust, nevertheless neither fate, nor history, nor the anger of the State, nor the glory or infamy of battle has any power to affect those who call themselves human beings. No, whatever life holds in store -- hard won glory, poverty and despair, or death in a labour camp --they live as human beings and die as human beings, the same as those who have already perished: and in this alone lies man's eternal and bitter victory over all the grandiose and inhuman forces that ever have been or ever will be..." The translation by Robert Chandler was as masterful as the original writing itself: Chandler was articulate, true to the text and humble in bringing to light without affectation or coyness or ego the profundity of this master work. I wish there had been maps of the front lines, which I found on the Internet to help me gain my bearings with unfamiliar geography at http://users.pandora.be/stalingrad/ma... map 7.htm. Having read War and Peace, Grossman gives the master, Tolstoy, a real run for his money in this epic: don't let this masterpiece pass you by! It's a novel fated to change your life.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Doug Bradshaw

    My Goodreads friend, Michael's review of this book is so outstanding that I decided to read this book. Here is a link to his five star review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... For me, this book was more of a four star read. As much as I admired the work and effort, reading it was a challenge for me. I was captivated now and then by some of the little things I found fascinating: the ridiculous psychological manipulations of Stalin and his minions as they force good people to sign fraudulen My Goodreads friend, Michael's review of this book is so outstanding that I decided to read this book. Here is a link to his five star review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... For me, this book was more of a four star read. As much as I admired the work and effort, reading it was a challenge for me. I was captivated now and then by some of the little things I found fascinating: the ridiculous psychological manipulations of Stalin and his minions as they force good people to sign fraudulent documents, the amazing details and thoughts of each of the main characters and how the horrible situation of life as prisoners, soldiers, and everyday citizens living in the era under the iron hand of communism, affected their whole existence and every little thought, especially the main character. One of themes I liked was that the common people, the everyday people, were still full of good and many sacrifices were made throughout the stories that I found touching. It's interesting to see that it took many Soviet people a long time to realize that Fascism is the same as Stalin's Communism. Here's a quote I liked that summarizes a lot of the feeling of the book: It was as though the State, in its fury, was able to take away not only his freedom and peace of mind, but even his intelligence, his talent and his belief in himself. It had transformed him into a grey, stupid, miserable bourgeois. I wasn't able to bond with some of the main characters very well because of the writing style. It seemed that it was more factual, the report of the things happening and yet I couldn't feel the love, bonding and camaraderie I have enjoyed in many books. I think of "The City of Thieves" which is set in Leningrad during the Nazi occupation as well as The Bronze Horseman. Both contained much of the same misery of war, yet there was a closeness to the characters that made both very touching for me, although certainly not in the same category of writing, "Life and Fate" far more erudite. I'm glad I read the book. I have to wonder if Putin and the boys are pretty much still the same kind of folk. Sadly not much has changed in the world.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Simona

    "Vita e destino" è uno di quei libri che non si dimenticano facilmente, che ti entrano dentro, ti scorticano la pelle fino a sanguinarla e farti male lasciandoti a pezzi sperando che qualcuno ti raccolga. E' un romanzo difficile, una riflessione amara, dolorosa sul male e le sue conseguenze. Grossman analizza in maniera attenta, precisa, dettagliata la battaglia di Stalingrado, il periodo della lotta al totalitarismo e al nazismo. Durante la lettura, il lettore vive con i personaggi la vita del l "Vita e destino" è uno di quei libri che non si dimenticano facilmente, che ti entrano dentro, ti scorticano la pelle fino a sanguinarla e farti male lasciandoti a pezzi sperando che qualcuno ti raccolga. E' un romanzo difficile, una riflessione amara, dolorosa sul male e le sue conseguenze. Grossman analizza in maniera attenta, precisa, dettagliata la battaglia di Stalingrado, il periodo della lotta al totalitarismo e al nazismo. Durante la lettura, il lettore vive con i personaggi la vita del lager, cosa significa vivere in un lager, in mezzo al dolore, la tragedia che una esperienza del genere comporta. Vita e destino è la tragedia di chi vive qualcosa di terribile e di sovrumano, spietato, atroce, terribile, impossibile da raccontare e anche solo da descrivere. Questo romanzo è semplicemente la vita nelle sue mille sfaccettature, nelle sue manifestazioni di ogni attimo. E' la vita dolorosa, cruda, tragica, ma stupenda, in ogni caso, come ci dice anche uno dei protagonisti: "Non è niente, non è niente, mio caro, è la vita".

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    I really liked this book It is softer and less ideological than other Soviet literature I have read from this time - I can certainly see why it was banned It uses the backdrop of the battle of Stalingrad to explore the interlinked lives of an extended family and the people they come into contact with There are parallels with War and Peace which I am sure was the authors intention Warning - a bit of a brick at 850+ pages - not a quick read

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cosimo

    Figli del passato “Perché le loro sorti erano così ingarbugliate, così oscure?” Questo libro uscì dai confini dell'Unione sovietica in pagine microfilmate contenute in una scatola trasportata da una ricercatrice austriaca vicina agli ambienti dei dissidenti e degli oppositori al regime; il manoscritto su cui Vassilij Grossman aveva lavorato dieci anni era stato infatti sequestrato dalla polizia politica di Cruscev e condannato perché antisovietico all'esilio in patria, alla cancellazione permanent Figli del passato “Perché le loro sorti erano così ingarbugliate, così oscure?” Questo libro uscì dai confini dell'Unione sovietica in pagine microfilmate contenute in una scatola trasportata da una ricercatrice austriaca vicina agli ambienti dei dissidenti e degli oppositori al regime; il manoscritto su cui Vassilij Grossman aveva lavorato dieci anni era stato infatti sequestrato dalla polizia politica di Cruscev e condannato perché antisovietico all'esilio in patria, alla cancellazione permanente.“Perché mai alle bombe atomiche dei nostri nemici dovremmo aggiungere il suo libro?”, si chiedeva il funzionario del partito incaricato di spiegare le ragioni ideologiche della requisizione. Grossman è stato più di mille giorni al fronte orientale al seguito dell'Armata Rossa e narra con lucido coraggio l'eroismo del popolo, la sua epopea vittoriosa e il valore storico della resistenza militare contro il nazismo; si assume il compito di raccontare il lato oscuro e spaventoso dei campi di lavoro, la spietata e crudele tirannia di Stalin con l'Nkvd e la Lubjanka, le persecuzioni degli ebrei e la colpevole complicità, insieme al disumano orrore del sistema dei lager nazisti e alla follia del popolo tedesco che obbedì a Hitler. L'autore testimonia la menzogna e la natura criminale dell'assolutismo sovietico, con le prepotenti mistificazioni e le atroci azioni delittuose, gli arresti e i processi politici. In questo romanzo-mondo ci sono numerose realtà simultanee: il canto per la libertà, l'essere umano irriducibile ad ogni forma di potere totale, la tragedia violenta e il terrore indicibile del Novecento, la drammatica mostruosità della guerra nella carne viva dei soldati, nel gelo di un implacabile e silenzioso inverno, nella massa di corpi assassinati. Si sviluppa la vicenda corale di una famiglia ebrea russa in un tempo di fame e sacrificio, bombardamenti e prigionie, amore e paura, morte e speranza. La letteratura di Grossman è scritta con verità e partecipa al senso della storia, portando il lettore nell'eterna unicità della battaglia di Stalingrado, nella polifonia teatrale degli scenari che decisero le sorti dell'umanità e delle anime dei caduti e dei sopravvissuti di quel tragico evento. I personaggi storici e romanzeschi, protagonisti e comprimari, sono tratteggiati con elegante autenticità e profonda immedesimazione, in uno stile epico e insieme naturale: bene e male, amici e nemici, compagni e avversari, vittime e carnefici costituiscono una trama plurima e composita di fatti e episodi semplici e significativi, un mosaico multiforme e fatale di etica e conoscenza. L'amore per la patria russa e la critica per le scelte politiche e sociali del popolo convivono in pagine di meditata passione, dolorosa riflessione filosofica e ispirata denuncia storico-romanzesca: un racconto che ha forma collettiva e voce di persone reali e universali, nella coscienza complessa di uno scrittore che scelse di celebrare e onorare l'umano nell'uomo, di fronte alle forze oscure e violente che minacciarono la fragile continuità della vita e della libertà. “Né il destino del mondo, né la storia, né la collera di Stato, né battaglie gloriose e ingloriose erano in grado di cambiare coloro che rispondono al nome di uomini; ad attenderli potevano esserci la gloria per le imprese compiute oppure la solitudine, la disperazione, il bisogno, il lager e la morte, ma avrebbero comunque vissuto da uomini e da uomini sarebbero morti, e chi era già morto era comunque morto da uomo; è questa la vittoria amara e eterna degli uomini su tutte le forze possenti e disumane che sempre sono state e sempre saranno nel mondo, su ciò che passa e ciò che resta”.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Federico

    Non sta a me recensire questo capolavoro, non ne sarei all'altezza, l'unica cosa che posso dire a riguardo é: leggetelo e rileggetelo se potete, testi di questa immensità e densità non si trovano così facilmente.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    This review was constructed while drinking. Pub Guinness veered into Sierra Nevada Torpedo at home. Yo La Tengo kept pushing immediate questions: why not, why not? Why isn't Life and Fate a fucking rock star on goodreads? Apparently such matters don't work in translation, well, unless it is Murakami or Bolano. I do find that rather akimbo, disjointed silences on germans and russians while YAs run amok. I did note that TWO of my coworkers are reading 50 Shades. No, the novel isn't a streamlined ma This review was constructed while drinking. Pub Guinness veered into Sierra Nevada Torpedo at home. Yo La Tengo kept pushing immediate questions: why not, why not? Why isn't Life and Fate a fucking rock star on goodreads? Apparently such matters don't work in translation, well, unless it is Murakami or Bolano. I do find that rather akimbo, disjointed silences on germans and russians while YAs run amok. I did note that TWO of my coworkers are reading 50 Shades. No, the novel isn't a streamlined masterpiece, but it bleeds, it carries the smoked stench of someone who was there.

  26. 5 out of 5

    julieta

    Sin duda es uno de los libros más hermosos que he leído en mi vida. Cuando uno se pregunta, (de vez en cuando) por qué leer? Bueno, para encontrarte con libros como este. Es sobre la batalla por Stalingrado, entre el Ejército Rojo (rusos) y el Aleman, en la segunda guerra mundial. Y muestra a distintos personajes que han sido afectados por esta guerra. Pero es más que eso, es que el autor tiene una empatía, un nivel de comprensión de cada una de las personas en distintas situaciones. Es como si Sin duda es uno de los libros más hermosos que he leído en mi vida. Cuando uno se pregunta, (de vez en cuando) por qué leer? Bueno, para encontrarte con libros como este. Es sobre la batalla por Stalingrado, entre el Ejército Rojo (rusos) y el Aleman, en la segunda guerra mundial. Y muestra a distintos personajes que han sido afectados por esta guerra. Pero es más que eso, es que el autor tiene una empatía, un nivel de comprensión de cada una de las personas en distintas situaciones. Es como si te hubiera metido ahí, al lugar, todo lo que se habla, todo lo que sienten lo sientes, te mete en la piel de cada uno de ellos. Aquí hay de todo, hay despedidas dolorosisimas, encuentros, hambre, amor en todas sus formas, violencia, horror, incomprensión, diferencias políticas, todo lo que los seres humanos podemos sentir seamos de donde sea, tengamos las creencias que sean. Qué siglo el siglo XX! Pasaron tantas cosas horribles. Sí, qué horror Hitler, es un verdadero horror lo que hizo, hay escenas que te sacan toda la angustia humana posible, no puedo comprender, por más libros que lea sobre el tema, el antisemitismo, lo que hizo de las personas, el que hayan muerto tantos y tantos por algo sin sentido; y qué horror Stalin!!! Qué horror el no poder decir lo que piensas, no poder hablar con tus amigos sin miedo, preocupandote de que te delaten si es que dijiste algo sin saber. Qué nivel de angustia no poder saber nunca si te va a tocar que te salgan con que eres un traidor. Tener que mirar por tus espaldas a ver si una persona que conociste hace décadas, no resulta ser un delator. Y todos lo son! el miedo los empuja a la sumisión. Una vez que la batalla de Stalingrado termina, habiendo vencido a los Alemanes, parecería casi un descanso, pero no lo es! Es angustiante y confuso lo que sigue, el Estado es aún más fuerte, acaba de vencer a los alemanes, vengan todos y sean cobijados en su poder, en sumisión total, y sin dudas. Ahora que han vencido a los Alemanes, qué será de los Rusos? Es una oda a la libertad del ser humano, la libertad de conciencia, de poder hablar, pensar, sentir lo que te dicta tu alma. Sé que me tomará un tiempo recuperarme de la increíble vida que corre por estas páginas. Un libro importante, que estoy feliz de haber leído por fin.

  27. 5 out of 5

    4triplezed

    Life and Fate. The perfect title for an astonishingly good book. I am going to call Life and Fate a masterpiece. Yes it is as good as the reviews I have just read say it is. On a personal level it is a long time since I have had an emotional involvement with the characters of a novel. Les Misérables maybe? Though a large cast the life and fate of the protagonists at the time of the battle for Stalingrad made powerful and compelling reading. My copy is the Vintage edition 2006. It has an introduc Life and Fate. The perfect title for an astonishingly good book. I am going to call Life and Fate a masterpiece. Yes it is as good as the reviews I have just read say it is. On a personal level it is a long time since I have had an emotional involvement with the characters of a novel. Les Misérables maybe? Though a large cast the life and fate of the protagonists at the time of the battle for Stalingrad made powerful and compelling reading. My copy is the Vintage edition 2006. It has an introduction by Linda Carter who writes she read the book in 3 weeks and took 3 weeks to “recover from the experience.” She had also “urged all my friends to read it.” She is of the opinion that the novel should be as famous as Doctor Zhivago and The Gulag Archipelago. I have never read these books but based on what I think of Life and Fate these must be truly remarkable books with such high praise. She also includes a historical background that is followed by a one page explanation of the translation by Robert Chandler. We also have a page that lists a few books on Stalin’s Russia and Grossman himself. There is also a List of Chief Characters at the back of the book to aid the reader who may not be used to the complicated Russian names. I found this a great resource and referred to it constantly. As time went on the names became familiar. The story itself revolves around the Shaposhnikova family and those that come into contact with them in one way or another. Dare I say it without seeming trite but almost a six degrees of separation story? This lead to the reader following the lives of everyone within that circle from those that fought and died to those that had issues with the state politics of the time. With that we became involved in an emotional rollercoaster be that the death of a son through to the agony of being untrue to one’s self belief. All this told with emotionally charged prose by Grossman that left me as the reader spellbound. Some chapters were so astonishingly emotionally charged I was putting the book down to take stock. The mother whose son had been killed was sad beyond belief but the final thoughts of those going to their deaths in the gas chamber in chapter 48 part two will live with me forever. A truly stunning book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    amapola

    ”…perché non è l’uomo che è impotente contro il male, ma perché è il male che è impotente contro l’uomo e la sua umanità più profonda: la bontà”. Ci sono momenti nella storia, epoche tremende, in cui “l’uomo non è più artefice del proprio destino”, anzi, “è il destino del mondo ad arrogarsi il diritto di condannare o concedere la grazia, di portare gli allori o di ridurre in miseria…”. Che cosa può fare allora un uomo stretto nella morsa della Storia, vittima della collera dello Stato? Solo una ”…perché non è l’uomo che è impotente contro il male, ma perché è il male che è impotente contro l’uomo e la sua umanità più profonda: la bontà”. Ci sono momenti nella storia, epoche tremende, in cui “l’uomo non è più artefice del proprio destino”, anzi, “è il destino del mondo ad arrogarsi il diritto di condannare o concedere la grazia, di portare gli allori o di ridurre in miseria…”. Che cosa può fare allora un uomo stretto nella morsa della Storia, vittima della collera dello Stato? Solo una cosa: cercare di difendere a tutti i costi la propria umanità, lottare strenuamente “per conquistarsi il diritto di essere uomo”. Così, nell’inferno della battaglia di Stalingrado Grossman ci presenta una moltitudine di personaggi, uomini e donne, le cui storie particolari si intrecciano con la Storia, una polifonia di voci che scuote profondamente, commuove, indigna, strazia, lascia stupefatti e ammirati. Un romanzo unico, grandioso. Non facciamogli il torto di leggerlo con il paraocchi dell’ideologia, Grossman questo non se lo merita. Non anche da noi. ”La neve si posava sulle spalle di Bach ed era come se il silenzio scendesse a fiocchi sul Volga ammutolito, sulla città morta, sulle carcasse dei cavalli; nevicava ovunque, non solo sulla terra, ma anche sulle stelle, l’universo era pieno di neve. E sotto la neve tutto spariva: i cadaveri dei caduti, le armi, i vestiti putridi, i sassi, il ferro ritorto”. Aggiungo un link che con poche parole e molte immagini riesce a dare un’idea di quello che fu la Battaglia di Stalingrado: https://youtu.be/QikJdmdYkO8 Qui l’elenco di tutti i personaggi: http://grossmanweb.eu/wp-content/uplo...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Siti

    I luoghi, i tempi, gli eventi, i personaggi, gli stati d’animo, la vita, la morte, il destino e su tutto un’opera che è un inno alla libertà. I lager, le izbe, la steppa calmucca, i gulag, lo scenario urbano collassato in trincee, i ricoveri, i bunker, i palazzi sinistri del potere: la “tundra della vita”. La seconda guerra mondiale: descrizioni minuziose delle azioni militari. Russi e tedeschi, grandi pause narrative dedicate alle esistenze singole in un ampio ventaglio che va dal bambino al vecc I luoghi, i tempi, gli eventi, i personaggi, gli stati d’animo, la vita, la morte, il destino e su tutto un’opera che è un inno alla libertà. I lager, le izbe, la steppa calmucca, i gulag, lo scenario urbano collassato in trincee, i ricoveri, i bunker, i palazzi sinistri del potere: la “tundra della vita”. La seconda guerra mondiale: descrizioni minuziose delle azioni militari. Russi e tedeschi, grandi pause narrative dedicate alle esistenze singole in un ampio ventaglio che va dal bambino al vecchio, dal graduato al civile, dal comunista convinto al compagno disilluso, sfiorando talvolta anche gli uomini del potere. Una grande galleria di figure tragiche a sottolineare una lampante verità: “Chi è unito da uno stesso destino è diviso da un diverso carattere” e allora c’è chi rimane convinto anche se non lo è, e chi palesa la sua interdizione, le sue perplessità, e chi lo fa solo con se stesso perché è pavido per poi scoprire che non ce n’era affatto bisogno. Il culto, l’esaltazione mistica, una guerra che muta persino le sorti del partito. La vita, la morte e la burocrazia a decidere di esse. Il destino e l’uomo, con scopi diversi ma in un’unica strada del male, se non si ascolta la voce della libertà. Per dare voce alla libertà occorrono però parole cui far seguire azioni ma in certi sistemi ciò che nasce come soffocato grido di libertà si tramuta in schifosa delazione, la volontà è annullata, la libertà è annientata. Poi la guerra termina e la vita lentamente fiorisce. “Così è il tempo: tutto passa, lui resta. Tutto resta, il tempo passa.” Cosa rimane poi? Il ricordo delle violenze. E nasce questo romanzo, che anticipa la storia quando essa non è ancora attrezzata per accoglierlo. È un prematuro e coraggioso atto di scrittura oggettiva della realtà senza la supponenza che accompagna la denuncia. Essa è implicita negli eventi, in particolare nel crollo di un mondo di ideali che hanno generato disumanità. Lo sguardo di chi fu, non a caso, un reporter, si posa su questo mondo, lo sigilla e ce lo consegna quando ancora, nonostante tutto, palpita nei suoi estremismi ideologici. È una voce stridente che, anticipando appunto la successiva condanna del totalitarismo russo, non può trovare cassa di risonanza. È un libro che era opportuno far tacere, mai visto edito dal suo autore, letto in occidente grazie ai microfilm fatti passare clandestinamente, oggi lo leggiamo sulla scorta dell’originale che finalmente è stato restituito agli eredi. Un libro che è stato in prigione, parlava di libertà. IMPERDIBILE.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gattalucy

    Capolavoro. Per cui, come mia consuetudine davanti a un libro così, vorrei evitare di commentarlo. Ma mi sento in obbligo di porgere un grazie di cuore a Vasilij Grossman, che ha scritto un romanzo del genere, che è una finestra su un evento, l’assedio di Stalingrado, che ha cambiato il corso della storia, e che ha segnato il futuro dell’Europa così come la conosciamo noi, e sull’identità e la determinazione che sono ancora oggi una caratteristica peculiare del popolo sovietico. L’ha fatto con la Capolavoro. Per cui, come mia consuetudine davanti a un libro così, vorrei evitare di commentarlo. Ma mi sento in obbligo di porgere un grazie di cuore a Vasilij Grossman, che ha scritto un romanzo del genere, che è una finestra su un evento, l’assedio di Stalingrado, che ha cambiato il corso della storia, e che ha segnato il futuro dell’Europa così come la conosciamo noi, e sull’identità e la determinazione che sono ancora oggi una caratteristica peculiare del popolo sovietico. L’ha fatto con la fermezza e la volontà del testimone diretto, mettendo insieme una serie infinita di storie intrecciate tra loro, una più bella dell’altra. Ma l’ha fatto sotto il giogo di uno Stato capace di innalzarlo o di annientarlo, sotto la minaccia e la paura che bene ha saputo rappresentare nel romanzo. Paura che si è materializzata con perquisizioni, licenziamenti, distruzione di tutte le copie del suo testo, fino a non vederlo mai publicato in patria prima della morte. http://grossmanweb.eu/vasily-grossman... Proviamo a pensare se Steinbeck, per scrivere Furore, avesse dovuto combattere contro il governo degli Stati Uniti pronti a mandarlo sotto tortura. Questo libro è una finestra sulla Storia, ma anche un puzzle di tessere che ti svelano pian piano il presente, e i motivi di un futuro prossimo venturo, in un Occidente che sembra alla sua parabola discendente, accanto a una Russia che è sempre pronta a risorgere dalle sue ceneri come l’araba Fenice. Come il popolo russo a Stalingrado. E senza mai venire meno ai suoi ideali e alla sua fede nel mondo in cui ha creduto, malgrado l’egoismo e l’individualismo che alberga nel cuore di ciascuno di noi. Libro incommensurabile. Grazie Vasilij PS: e grazie a Paolo (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2...) per il link sulla biografia che ho allegato sopra, e al film che mi ha consigliato (Il nemico alle porte) che mi hanno guidato nella lettura, e senza i quali avrei capito la metà di quello che ho letto.

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