- Paperback: 896 pages
- Publisher: NYRB Classics (16 May 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590172019
- ISBN-13: 978-1590172018
- Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 4.8 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,50,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Life and Fate (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 16 May 2006
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"Vasily Grossman is the Tolstoy of the USSR" --Martin Amis
#1 on Antony Beevor's "Five Best of World War II Fiction" list —The Wall Street Journal, 11/21/09
“One of the greatest works of literature to come out of Russia during the 20th century, Life and Fate could be looked at as the closest thing the Second World War had to a War and Peace. An absolute sprawling and haunting masterpiece that should be on every list.” —Flavorwire
“A delightfully readable 2006 translation by Robert Chandler, this edition preserves nearly all the color of Russian sayings and dark humor while remaining a devastating portrait of Stalin's Russia. Grossman shows how Russian communism was a moral and ideological dead end, an almost exact counterpart to Hitler's Nazism that was preordained from the moment Lenin began killing his opponents instead of talking to them…In the end, he leads the reader to the inescapable conclusion that Communism, like Nazism, had only one goal: power. Coming from a man who once sat in on the privileged inner circles of this government, as an acclaimed journalist and author, this is a devastating message indeed.” —Forbes
"A chronicle of the past century's two evil engines of destruction-Soviet communism and German fascism-the novel is dark yet earns its right to depression. But it depresses in the way that all genuinely great art does-through an unflinching view of the truth, which includes all the awfulness of which human beings are capable and also the splendor to which in crises they can attain. A great book, a masterpiece, Life and Fate is a book only a Russian could write." -Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal“The greatest Russian novel of the 20th century…. Life and Fate will continue to dazzle and inspire—as unerring a moral guide today as it was 50 years ago.” —Foreign Policy
"It's a masterpiece." -Frederic Raphael
"Grossman's depiction of Soviet citizens as they struggle to survive is magnificent. Life and Fate has been called the greatest Russian novel of the 20th Century. I agree." --Daytona Beach News
"World War II’s War and Peace. Written (mainly) from the vantage point of a Soviet Jew, this masterpiece was judged far too ambivalent in its treatment of the 'Great Patriotic War' to be published in the author’s lifetime." --Niall Ferguson, The New York Times [for the article War: A Reader's Guide]"Life and Fate is not only a brave and wise book; it is also written with Chekhovian subtlety." --Prospect Magazine
“...a classic of 20th century Russian literature.” –The New York Times
“Grossman’s account of Soviet life – penal, military and civilian – is encyclopedic and unblinkered...enormously impressive...A significant addition to the great library of smuggled Russian works.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Takes its place beside The First Circle and Doctor Zhivago as a masterful evocation of the fate of Russia as it is expressed through the lives of its people.”—USA Today
“Among the most damning indictments of the Soviet system ever written...”—The Wall Street Journal
“To read Life and Fate is, among other things, to have some sense of how it feels not to be free...In more ways than one, Life and Fate is a testament to the strength of character that terrorized human souls are capable of attaining. It is a noble book.”— The Wall Street Journal
“Read it, and rejoice that the 20th century has produced so thoughtful and so profound a literary humanist.The sufferings and self-revelations of these characters provide us with some of the most troubling and occasionally uplifting examinations of the human heart to be found in contemporary literature. A novel for all time.”—Washington Post Book World
“[an] extraordinarily dark portrait of Soviet society.”—David Remnick, The Washington Post
“Fascinating and powerful...Life and Fate does something that, as far as I know, no other novel has tried to do fully - and that is to portray believing Soviet Communists as ordinary characters, rather than as predictable embodiments of evil.”—Vogue
“Life and Fate has no equals in contemporary Russian literature...I would go so far as to say that Grossman in Life and Fate is the first free voice of the Soviet nation.”—Commentary
“Vasily Grossman's novel ostensibly concerns World War II, which he covered as a Soviet war correspondent. But his true subject is the power of kindness—random, banal or heroic—to counter the numbing dehumanization of totalitarianism….By the novel's end, both communism and fascism are reduced to ephemera; instinctive kindness, whatever the consequences, is what makes us human.” – Linda Grant, The Wall Street Journal blog
From the Inside Flap
Suppressed by the KGB, Life and Fate is a rich and vivid account of what the Second World War meant to the Soviet Union.
On its completion in 1960, Life and Fate was suppressed by the KGB. Twenty years later, the novel was smuggled out of the Soviet Union on microfilm. At the centre of this epic novel looms the battle of Stalingrad. Within a world torn apart by ideological tyranny and war, Grossman's characters must work out their destinies. Chief among these are the members of the Shaposhnikov family - Lyudmila, a mother destroyed by grief for her dead son; Viktor, her scientist-husband who falls victim to anti-semitism; and Yevgenia, forced to choose between her love for the courageous tank-commander Novikov and her duty to her former husband. Life and Fate is one of the great Russian novels of the 20th century, and the richest and most vivid account there is of what the Second World War meant to the Soviet Union.
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Personally, I found many parts striking a chord. For example, somewhere at the beginning, the description of how the camp is run reminded me of India under British rule. Likewise, much of the political action seems to ring true, (based on other peoples' writings), and in comparing communists to Nazis, the author had both great clarity of vision and great courage to even think of making the comparison.
There are one or two places where the thread seems to be lost, and the ending seems a trifle abrupt, but considering the history behind this novel, it can be understood that some parts of it may have been lost.
However, the parts which seemed relatively unrealistic pertain to the war itself, which is ironic considering that the author was a war correspondent. It seems like a typically sanitized, jingoistic, glorified version, which sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb, because it is in such stark contrast to the rest of the work, where, in general, the author is extremely clear sighted and even handed in his treatment of both the Russians and the Germans. (Note: the translator also refers to a related point: i.e. the debate about the true motivations of the defenders of Stalingrad.)
Possibly, these issues might have been rectified in the due process, had the author been able to review the book. Even so, this is an exceptional work.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This is also a beautiful novel, full of love and tenderness along with an eye level perspective on what a Jew might have experience being led to their death. The contrasts are so dramatic that, like Tolstoy, it feels as though the story was torn directly from the complex fabric of life itself. It is aptly named, and I cannot quite believe it has escaped my attention after 50 years of compulsive reading. By the way, the translation was superb.
Thee writing is of another order: two essays remain with me, one on the indistructibilty of powerless kindness, and the other a sombre telling of the final walk of a grandmother, a spinster and a small boy into the gas chamber at Auswietz.
It is not just about the USSR. It is about relations between the person and the oppression of the totalitarian state. It is about integrity and dignity with a powerful message that it is better to honorably die for the cause than it is to live without honor. In contrast to Orwell's dystopia of 1984, the event described in the book has happened on massive scale to the millions of ordinary people. Long suppressed by KGB, this book finally reached the readers in early 1990s - manuscripts do not burn...