Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, suppressed by the Soviet authorities in the 1950s but smuggled out of Russia with the help of Andrey Sakharov in the early 1980s, established Grossman’s reputation as a 20th-century Tolstoy, in particular following Robert Chandler’s magnificent 1985 translation into English.
Most readers, however, do not realize that it is only the second half of a two-part work, the first half of which was published in 1952 under the title For a Just Cause. Grossman’s original and preferred title was Stalingrad – a title now restored in Chandler’s new translation. The translator writes of it ‘To me, at least, Stalingrad now seems a greater novel than Life and Fate. It is more varied, more polyphonic, closer to Grossman’s immediate experience of the war … In our translation, we have restored much of the reality edited out from previous editions, reinstating several hundred passages – some of just three or four words, some of several pages – from the typescript. Our hope is that this may allow readers to recognize the full breadth, humour and emotional generosity of another of Grossman’s masterpieces.’
Robert Chandler was in conversation with writer and arts broadcaster David Herman.