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Life and Fate (1980)

by Vasily Grossman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Stalingrad (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,983793,861 (4.37)2 / 468
A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state, Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century. Interweaving an account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middle-class family, the Shaposhnikovs, scattered by fortune from Germany to Siberia, Vasily Grossman fashions an immense, intricately detailed tapestry depicting a time of almost unimaginable horror and even stranger hope. Life and Fate juxtaposes bedrooms and snipers' nests, scientific laboratories and the Gulag, taking us deep into the hearts and minds of characters ranging from a boy on his way to the gas chambers to Hitler and Stalin themselves. This novel of unsparing realism and visionary moral intensity is one of the supreme achievements of modern Russian literature.… (more)
  1. 81
    War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (chrisharpe, longway)
  2. 40
    Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: Grossman reminds me of Malaparte. Less black humor than Malaparte but the same emphasis on the brief scene that illuminates a larger canvas. I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that both were journalists.
  3. 40
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (chrisharpe)
  4. 51
    The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (LilianaL, chrisharpe)
  5. 41
    Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (chrisharpe)
  6. 30
    The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (christiguc)
  7. 30
    A Writer at War. Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945 by Vasily Grossman (chrisharpe)
  8. 30
    Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Both are books about individuals under repressive regimes, set during WWII, by authors who lived through the circumstances they write about. Although both works are "fiction", the authority of each writer is plainly stamped on each novel. The subject matter may be grim, and the detail uncompromising, but the characters' humanity shines through to make these uplifting reads.… (more)
  9. 31
    The Trial by Franz Kafka (gust)
  10. 31
    Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (chrisharpe)
  11. 21
    Red Star Over Russia: A Visual History of the Soviet Union from the Revolution to the Death of Stalin by David King (MeisterPfriem)
  12. 00
    Generations of Winter by Vasily Aksyonov (DelphineM)
  13. 11
    Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore (chrisharpe)
  14. 00
    Front-line Stalingrad by Victor Nekrasov (chrisharpe)
  15. 00
    Chevengur by Andrej Platonov (gust)
  16. 00
    Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (Anonymous user)
  17. 00
    The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge (bibliopolitan)
  18. 01
    Blockade Diary by Lidiya Ginzburg (gust)
  19. 01
    Europe Central by William T. Vollmann (absurdeist)
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» See also 468 mentions

English (52)  Dutch (8)  Spanish (6)  French (4)  Catalan (3)  Italian (2)  Yiddish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
First heard about this book here https://travellinpenguin.wordpress.com/2021/11/05/a-week-of-mish-mash/ and it is Book #2 in a 2-part series.
  Jinjer | Aug 12, 2022 |
A masterpiece. There are so many characters I can't remember all, particularly since I read this over the course of many months. But there are some memorable chapters. The letter from Viktor Shrum's mother struck a deep note early on, while the chapters on the gas chamber from both the German and Russian perspectives have to strike a chill to whoever's reading it. ( )
  siok | Sep 27, 2021 |
A book that has its challenges but rewards the effort of overcoming those challenges in multiples. Grossman uses historical and structural similarities with War and Peace to invite comparison - and of course to emphasise contrasts. His commentary on Soviet society - civil and military - at this turning point of the second world war is achieved mainly by following the fortunes of one family and their connections. It draws upon Grossman's own experiences, not least as a war correspondent and explores how the totalitarianism of Stalin's state uses, controls and crushes the nationalism and individual heroism which the war demands.
The challenges of the book lie in its lack of editing (due to state censorship) making a necessarily long book even longer and looser than it should be. And the problem most non-Russian speakers have of keeping track of all the different characters (of which there are many) given the varying ways of referring to them. January 2021. ( )
  alanca | Feb 2, 2021 |
In the back of Life and Fate, there is a vital guide that lists all of the "chief" characters with brief descriptions of who they are. How many characters are considered "chief" by the translator? 154. In case you weren't aware, that's a large number. I'm not even sure I could make up 154 names, let alone put them all in one of the greatest stories ever written.

But what makes Life and Fate so special is not the quantity of characters; it's the quality and depth of all 154 of them. I don't want to claim that this is an easy read. There is a Klimov, a Krymov, and a Krylov, and they're all present in the same area at the same time in the novel. Thankfully, though, every soldier is so distinct that you quickly pick up on their individual thoughts and motivations to the point that Klimov, Krymov, and Krylov are as different as Stalin and Hitler.

Vasily Grossman had many gifts as a writer, the greatest of which might have been his clarity of thought. Drawing on his experience writing for the Red Army newspaper as a war correspondent, Grossman creates scenes that are both concise and expressive. In over 850 pages (keep in mind Grossman was never able to do a final edit of the manuscript), there is not a single wasted word.

The best scenes in the book, unfortunately, come from Grossman's own difficult experiences. The gut-wrenching letter that Viktor receives from his mother is similar to the one Grossman received from his own mother, who died in the Holocaust. The horrors of the Battle of Stalingrad are written in such incredible detail because Grossman was there on the front lines, forced to be a witness to it all. And the gas chamber scene, which is up there with the greatest passages I've ever read, comes from what he saw at the Treblinka extermination camp. Grossman's original account of what he encountered at Treblinka was used at the Nuremberg trials, and recognizing how much he knew about the ugly process in the gas chambers adds an extra heavy layer on top of what is already difficult to read.

Comparisons to War and Peace are inevitable, especially with a title like Life and Fate. Each book's length, scope, and cast give the reader plenty to chew on. There are harrowing battle scenes balanced out with deeply personal trials. And, of course, there's the famous moralizing.

When people don't like War and Peace, it usually has something to do with Tolstoy philosophizing all over the place, so I'd bet they would have the same complaint about Grossman. But I for one didn't mind it at all with Tolstoy, and I was a huge fan of what Grossman had to say. Take this: Human groupings have one main purpose: to assert everyone’s right to be different, to be special, to think, feel and live in his or her own way. People join together in order to win or defend this right. But this is where a terrible, fateful error is born: the belief that these groupings in the name of a race, a God, a party or a State are the very purpose of life and not simply a means to an end. No! The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities and in his right to these peculiarities.I love the way Grossman takes an idea that would have gotten him executed had he shared it before Stalin's death and makes it feel so self-evident. It's a brave statement that's repeatedly reflected in the journeys of all his characters, whether they realize it or not.

It's hard not to admire just how much went into getting this book published. When Grossman first submitted it to Soviet censors in 1959, the book was arrested and everything he possessed that was even remotely related to the book was destroyed. Luckily, he had taken the precaution of giving two extra copies to acquaintances for safekeeping, and in 1974, ten years after Grossman's death, a group of Soviet dissidents including my boy Vladimir Voinovich (go read The Ivankiad) was able to smuggle pictures of every page of the book out of the country. Life and Fate was a deeply personal book for Grossman, and it hurts to know that he never saw it published and likely died believing it never would be, but the more people there are that read a novel like this, the less likely our world is to keep the next Life and Fate under wraps, and that, at least, is something to be happy about.

This is the book I wanted Doctor Zhivago to be. It's a thoughtful denunciation of Stalin's USSR with intelligent, sympathetic characters on every side (even a Nazi or two!) that also happens to be a great story. Vasily Grossman might not have fit the image of a great Russian writer (he certainly didn't have the beard or the for penchant for melodrama), but Life and Fate belongs in the pantheon of Russian literature right there with the tomes of the 19th century. There's no better way to learn about life in the Soviet Union than to read this and see just what it meant to "live your life for the Party." I'll give you a hint: it wasn't much fun. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
See NYRB review by Gary Saul Morson "In Search of an Honest Man" NYRB October 10,2019
  ddonahue | Oct 13, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Originaltittel: Zjizn i sudba / Liv og skjebne;

Vasilij Grossman; Steinar Gil (Oversetter)

Omtale:



Romanen er en skildring av forholdene på Østfronten under annen verdenskrig, og om kommunistregimet etter nazistenes fall. I sentrum for handlingen står en russisk-jødisk fysiker og hans familie. Boken er skrevet av krigsreporteren Vasilij Grossman som var øyevitne under kampene om Stalingrad. © DnBB AS

Fra bokomslaget:



Liv og skjebne er en storslagen skildring om en verden som faller sammen - under slaget om Stalingrad. Krigsreporteren Vasilij Grossman var øyenvitne under kampene om Stalingrad - med førstehånds kunnskap om det som skjedde. I fortellingens sentrum står den russiske familien Sjaposjnikov som blir spredd for alle vinder: En ung gutt på vei til gasskammeret, en fysiker som presses til "de korrekte" vitenskapelige resultater og en mor som leter etter sønnen hun har mistet. Dette er noen av de skjebner som tilsammen skaper det store bildet. Etter at Stalingrad endelig befris fra nazistene, oppdager mange mennesker at de nå lever under et annet redselsregime: Kommunistene. Grossman skildrer de ufattelige forholdene på Østfronten, der menneskenes lengsel etter friheten er sterkere enn alt annet. Manuskriptet til boken ble i sin tid beslaglagt av KGB, men smuglet ut til vesten. Denne boken er et "must" for alle som leste Antony Beevors bestselger Stalingrad.
 

» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Grossman, Vasilyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adrian, EsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ballestrem, Madeleine vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Björkegren, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chandler, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chandler, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Czech, JerzyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nitschke, AnneloreÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rebon, MartaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slofstra, FroukjeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zonghetti, ClaudiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to my mother, Yekaterina Savelievna Grossman
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There was a low mist. You could see the glare of headlamps reflected on the high-voltage cables beside the road.
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But Chekhov said: let's put God, and all these grand progressive ideas, to one side. Let's begin with man. Let's be kind and attentive to the individual man – whether he's a bishop, a peasant, an industrial magnate, a convict in the Sakhalin islands or a waiter in a restaurant ... That's democracy, the still unrealised democracy of the Russian people.
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Жизнь и судьба
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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

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

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590172019, 1590176545

 

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