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Stalingrad (1952)

by Vasily Grossman

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258378,198 (4.15)16
"Vassily Grossman (1905 - 1964) has become well-known in the last twenty years - above all for his novel Life and Fate. This has often been described as a Soviet (or anti-Soviet) War and Peace. Most readers, however, do not realize that it is only the second half of a dilogy. The first half, originally titled Stalingrad but published in 1952 under the title For a just cause, has received surprisingly little attention. Scholars and critics seem to have assumed that, since it was first published in Stalin's lifetime, it can only be considered empty propaganda. In reality, there is little difference between the two novels. The chapters in the earlier novel about the Shaposhnikov family are as tender, and sometimes humorous, as in the later novel. The chapters devoted to the long retreats of 1941 and the first half of 1942 are perhaps still more vivid than the battle scenes in the later novel" --… (more)
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English (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (3)
Showing 2 of 2
Yes, a fitting follow to War and Peace. Notably valid for the depiction of soldiers in battle. ( )
  RobertP | Jul 28, 2020 |
Stalingrad is the first book in the duology completed by Life and Fate. In Stalingrad we follow Hitler's advance through Russia, encirclement of the Russian armies, the occupation of Ukraine. The Soviet Army has retreated as far as Stalingrad, the southernmost city in unoccupied Russia, an industrial centre that produces steel and tanks for the Soviet Army. Beyond Stalingrad is the Kazakh steppe. Stalin has ordered that there is to be no retreat.

Stalingrad follows the fate of the Shaposhnikov family and its connections. Near the beginning of the book, in the lull before the siege, these family members and friends gather to celebrate the birthday of the matriarch, Alexandra Vladimirovna Shaposhnikova, understanding that they might never meet again. Stalingrad focuses on people: the middle-aged peasant farmers who leave their wives and children to tend the crops, expecting to die; the young boys leaving their work groups for the front; the factory workers; the coal miners; the women left destitute, trying to feed their children. By concentrating on the nobility of individuals, Grossman skirts the unpalatable truth, that many thousands were shot for desertion. This is not the reality he is free to write about in Stalin's Russia. As Marusya, daughter of Alexandra, says, "There is the truth of the reality forced on us by the accursed past. And there’s the truth of the reality which will defeat the past."

A chapter on Fascism could well be about Stalinism. Grossman was known to have equated the two.

Grossman adapted Stalingrad to the demands of the Soviet censors, who excised humour and references to real conditions, and tried to remove the main Jewish character. Robert Chandler, the translator, has, with the aid of the researcher Yuri Bit-Yunin, restored sections from Grossman's original typescript. Chandler's introduction and his chapter on the alterations he made to the various Russian published texts are informative and well worth reading. In Life and Fate, which was 'arrested' by the Soviets, Grossman writes what he believes.

I can recommend Stalingrad, but if you haven't read Life and Fate, read that instead. ( )
1 vote pamelad | Jun 2, 2020 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Grossman, Vasilyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chandler, ElizabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chandler, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jurriaanse, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Vassily Grossman (1905 - 1964) has become well-known in the last twenty years - above all for his novel Life and Fate. This has often been described as a Soviet (or anti-Soviet) War and Peace. Most readers, however, do not realize that it is only the second half of a dilogy. The first half, originally titled Stalingrad but published in 1952 under the title For a just cause, has received surprisingly little attention. Scholars and critics seem to have assumed that, since it was first published in Stalin's lifetime, it can only be considered empty propaganda. In reality, there is little difference between the two novels. The chapters in the earlier novel about the Shaposhnikov family are as tender, and sometimes humorous, as in the later novel. The chapters devoted to the long retreats of 1941 and the first half of 1942 are perhaps still more vivid than the battle scenes in the later novel" --

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