THE PREQUEL TO LIFE AND FATE NOW AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME, STALINGRAD IS A SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER AND NOW A MAJOR RADIO 4 DRAMA
'One of the great novels of the 20th century, and now published in English for the first time' Observer
'A gripping panorama of the human experience' Kenneth Branagh
In April 1942, Hitler and Mussolini plan the huge offensive on the Eastern Front that will culminate in the greatest battle in human history.
Hundreds of miles away, Pyotr Vavilov receives his call-up papers and spends a final night with his wife and children in the hut that is his home. As war approaches, the Shaposhnikov family gathers for a meal: despite her age, Alexandra will soon become a refugee; Tolya will enlist in the reserves; Vera, a nurse, will fall in love with a wounded pilot; and Viktor Shtrum will receive a letter from his doomed mother which will haunt him forever.
The war will consume the lives of a huge cast of characters – lives which express Grossman’s grand themes of the nation and the individual, nature’s beauty and war’s cruelty, love and separation.
For months, Soviet forces are driven back inexorably by the German advance eastward and eventually Stalingrad is all that remains between the invaders and victory. The city stands on a cliff top by the Volga River. The battle for Stalingrad – a maelstrom of violence and firepower – will reduce it to ruins. But it will also be the cradle of a new sense of hope.
Stalingrad is a magnificent novel not only of war but of all human life: its subjects are mothers and daughters, husbands and brothers, generals, nurses, political officers, steelworkers, tractor girls. It is tender, epic, and a testament to the power of the human spirit.
‘You will not only discover that you love his characters and want to stay with them – that you need them in your life as much as you need your own family and loved ones – but that at the end... you will want to read it again’ Daily Telegraph
Grossman's epic, sprawling novel from 1952 is a masterpiece of intertwined plots that cascade together in a long sequence of militaristic horror. Grossman (1905 1964), best known for this book's sequel, Life and Fate, was on the scene as a Soviet war reporter during WWII's Nazi siege of Stalingrad, and the novel teems with his firsthand observations. The action is told from dozens of perspectives, ranging from humble workers to Hitler himself. Most of the characters have some relationship to Stalingrad's Shaposhnikov family. After an opening dinner party, the Shaposhnikovs are separated by a war that has drawn ever nearer to their city. Alexandra, the family matriarch, is forced into exile with her oldest daughter, Ludmila. Ludmila's husband, Viktor Shtrum, an important scientist, is worried that his Jewish mother has been a victim of the Holocaust. Alexandra's second daughter, Marusya, and her daughter, Vera, display heroism in their wartime work in an orphanage and a hospital. The beautiful Zhenya, Alexandra's youngest daughter, has left Nikolay Krymov, a communist thinker, and is being courted by Pyotr Novikov, a gifted military strategist. Two of the family's grandchildren, Tolya and Seryozha, are in military units defending the city. When the bombing of Stalingrad begins, Grossman cuts between viewpoints, rewinding time over and over again. A spectacular afterword details the extent of censorship the text suffered under Stalin. As a stand-alone novel, this is both gripping and enlightening, a tour de force. When considered as a whole with Life and Fate, this diptych is one of the landmark accomplishments of 20th-century literature.
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Telling it like it was
Russian Jew, supporter of the Russian Revolution of 1917. War reporter during the Great Patriotic War (aka WW2). After his mother was slaughtered by invading Germans, he volunteered for the front despite being exempt from military service, and spent a thousand days reporting for the Red Army newspaper, which made him a war hero. His post-war novels Life and Fate and its prequel Stalingrad (originally For a Just Cause) had a stuttering gestation. Uncle Joe was not a fan of "Telling it like it is.” The author died in 1964 of gastric cancer. This is the latest, most up-to-date, version of a narrative much tinkered with by the censors originally.
The Battle of Stalingrad (August 1042 to February 1943) was the largest (nearly 2.2 million personnel), bloodiest (1.8–2 million killed, wounded or captured), and most expensive (in terms of military equipment trashed) battle in the history of warfare. Grossman lived through it.
Russian literature does not get better than this. The translation is excellent.
A lot. This book and Life and Fate have been called War and Peace for the 20th century. The difference between Grossman and Tolstoy is that Grossman was actually there, right in the middle of the war he described.
I read Life and Fate 30 years ago, and thought it was better than Solzhenitsyn, who was flavour of the month at the time. I've read a number of books about the Battle of Stalingrad since then, none better than this.