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Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman

Everything Flows (1970)

by Vasily Grossman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6173124,870 (4.15)64
Everything Flows is the last novel by Vasily Grossman, written after the Soviet authorities suppressed his extraordinary epic of besieged Stalingrad, and the besieged modern soul, Life and Fate. The central story is simple yet moving: Ivan Grigoryevich, the hero, is released after thirty years in the Soviet camps and has to struggle to find a place for himself in an unfamiliar world. This story, however, provides only the bare bones of a work written with prophetic urgency and in the shadow of death. Interspersing Ivan's story with a variety of other stories and essays and even a miniature play, Grossman writes boldly and uncompromisingly about Russian history and the 'Russian soul,' about Lenin and Stalin, about Moscow prisons in 1937, and about the fate of women in the Gulag, and in the play he subtly dramatizes the pressures that force people to compromise with an evil regime. His chapter about the least-known act of genocide of the last century-the Terror Famine that led to the deaths of around five million Ukrainian peasants in 1932 - 33-is unbearably lucid, comparable in its power only to the last cantos of Dante's Inferno.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
The "hero" of this novel returns to the big cities of Russia after being freed from the Goulag in the 1950s. He makes the rounds of some of his old friends, who had all submitted to the regime, in one way or another. When they see the "hero", they feel embarrassed at the way they had behaved or gone along with the denunciations of friends and colleagues. The "hero" eventually finds a job working in a factory. He falls in love with a kind, simple woman, who shares with him her own shame at working with the regime and being partly responsible for the killing of the Koulaks in the Ukraine. Their joy together does not last long. The end of the novel turns into a description of the last days of Stalinism, in an attempt to understand why people participate actively in a totalitarian system, and a disquisition on the importance of freedom. ( )
  JohnJGaynard | Dec 31, 2018 |
Everything Flows feels like the unfinished novel that it is... but it contains some beautifully composed passages about terrible episodes in Soviet history. The ending and the section about famine in Ukraine were particularly good.

The main thread of the book is about a man, a former political prisoner who has been released after 30 years in the camps, who has difficulty adjusting to life outside prison. The book's narrative thread is often interrupted: there are even essays about history and freedom that almost give the book the feel of a seminar on Soviet totalitarianism. Grossman manages to say a lot in a short book.

For more, please visit my blog, here. ( )
  LizoksBooks | Dec 15, 2018 |
Ci sono casi in cui non serve leggere libri di storia per venire a conoscenza di ciò che ha avuto luogo in passato.
Basta trovare il libro giusto, l'autore giusto, quello che riesce ad impregnare i propri romanzi con verità storica, che tramite personaggi inventati riesce a dipingere fatti reali.
Grossman è uno di questi.
Niente giri di parole, niente indorature di pillole: uno stile schietto, persino crudo a volte, ma che obbliga il lettore ad affrontare grandi temi del passato e purtroppo anche del presente, come quello della colpa. Una questione che tutt'ora non ha una soluzione definitiva, che fa discutere, e che lui fa emergere non con monologhi filosofici, ma con fatti. ( )
  Shay17 | Mar 30, 2018 |
Vasily Grossman was working on ‘Everything Flows’ until his final days in the hospital, where he would die at just 58. Thinking that the KGB had destroyed any chance of his masterpiece ‘Life and Fate’ to ever be published, and with the constant threat of persecution hanging over him, he courageously continued to write honest, open accounts of life in the Soviet Union. The framework for ‘Everything Flows’ is that a man returns to Moscow after spending thirty years in a gulag. There are some touching scenes as he seeks out family members who have erased him from their minds, as well as familiar places which have changed, but the real meat of the novel is not in its plot, but in Grossman’s searing political and historical commentary. There are few authors who write with such intelligence and clarity of thought.

The strongest chapters are on the Holodomor, the genocide of roughly five million people in Ukraine in 1932-33, that does not have the awareness it should. Grossman describes how it happened, starting with the forced relocation of masses of people to the middle of nowhere, to fend for themselves in winter, and ending with the smaller quantities of grain produced shipped off to the cities, literally starving those who had grown it. He recognizes that “it was the same as the Nazis putting Jewish children in the gas chamber”, and the irony of this genocide, as well as Soviet anti-Semitism and prison camps, given how the USSR was a powerful ally in stopping Hitler, is not lost on him. The horrifying conditions are also described on a personal level, in highly poignant scenes. “Is it really true that no one will be held to account for it all? That it will all just be forgotten without a trace?” his character wonders. Grossman is trying his very best to ensure none of the outrages in his lifetime were forgotten.

And how important is it to remember and learn from history? Attempting to force nationalism, labeling those who disagree as "enemies of the people", labeling the intelligentsia as "cosmopolitan" in a derogatory way, and inciting the hatred of minorities - in the Soviet case, fake news about Jewish doctors killing their patients, and kulaks being parasites who burned bread and murdered children - does it sound alarmingly familiar to things going on in today’s politics in the U.S. and around the world?

Another excellent chapter describes the conditions in a women’s prison camp through the experiences of a woman named Masha, who had once “read Blok, who had studied literature, who…had written poetry of her own…could also sew, make borsch, bake torte napoleon, and who had breast-fed a child.” She’s forced into sleeping with a senior guard, tries to commit suicide, and eventually resigns herself to being treated “worse than a dog” until she eventually leaves the prison in a coffin.

If the book sounds grim, well, I suppose it is, and that’s undoubtedly one of the reasons Grossman is not more highly read, and probably why I didn’t give the book a slightly higher rating.

There is such irony that a communist movement for the people, for the peasants and workers, would lead to collectivization and famine, loss of all freedoms and prison camps – and that it would be worse for peasants than it had been under the Tsars, who at least often had a heart in times of hardships. “How can we call ourselves workers if we don’t have the right to strike,” says one character. And, as men are always going to look out for themselves, it also led to far-from-socialistic corruption: “It occurred to Ivan Grigoryevich that it was perhaps not so very surprising that incorruptible asceticism, the faith of the barefoot and fanatical apostles of the commune, had led in the end to fraudsters who were ready to do anything for the sake of a good dacha, for a car of their own, for some rubles to put away in their piggy bank.”

The later chapters work well as further history lessons. For example, how the revolutionaries of the 1910’s had gotten to middle age in the 1930’s, and were then shipped off to prison camps themselves, consumed by the State they had created; the socialist element now “a mere wrapping, a verbal husk, and empty shell.” The psychology of Lenin, often portrayed for his thoughtful personal moments (including, interestingly enough, re-reading ‘War and Peace’), but ruthless to political enemies and having a paradoxical contempt for freedom. And, how Russians have never had freedom – through Tsars, communism, and now, of course, long after Grossman’s time, Putin. Grossman recognizes freedom as more important than anything else, but wonders, “When will we see the day of a free, human, Russian soul? When will this day dawn? Or will it never dawn?”

However, the most profound messages are universal. One character draws a very dark conclusion, the pessimistic view that the fundamental law of humanity over history is not one of progress and freedom, but of violence. He puts it as a law of conservation of violence, that violence is eternal, changing its shape and form, but always present. “Sometimes it is directed against colored people, sometimes against writers and artists, but, all in all, the total quantity of violence on earth remains constant,” he says. It’s incredibly sobering.

On the other hand, in what seem to be the final pages Grossman ever wrote, his character has forgiveness of those who had interrogated him, denounced him, stolen from him, and beaten him – “all of them, in their weakness, coarseness, and spite, had done evil without wanting to.” It reveals an enlightenment and a humanity that is almost unimaginable. ( )
  gbill | Feb 10, 2018 |
Parte come un romanzo, si frantuma in racconti, termina come un saggio.
Cominciava bene, prometteva, ma non ha mantenuto fino in fondo, perché si ripete e perché espone idee che, per forza di cose, oggi sono già sentite e si potrebbero sentire persino durante un'edizione di Studio Aperto :-(
Personalmente poi mi ha SPIAZZATO la sua fede in Dio che, oltretutto, ha contribuito a rendere più stucchevoli i contenuti e la loro espressione.
Levi è più vicino alla mia sensibilità, credo. Forse tutto si spiega così. Forse. ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Grossman, Vasilyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adrian, EsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aslanyan, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bos, RonaldAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chandler, ElizabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chandler, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nitschke, AnneloreÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stoffel, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Khabarovsk express was due to arrive in Moscow by 9 A.M.
(Introduction) Vasily Grossman has become recognized not only as one of the great war novelists of all time but also as one of the first and most important of witnesses to the Shoah.
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Editions: 1590173287, 1590173899

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