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Rampaging

John Connelly: Stalin’s Infantry, 22 June 2006

Ivan’s War: The Red Army 1939-45 
by Catherine Merridale.
Faber, 396 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 571 21808 3
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A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-45 
edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.
Harvill, 378 pp., £20, September 2005, 9781843430551
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... slowly westward. By late 1943 they reached the prewar boundaries of the Soviet Union. According to Vasily Grossman, one of the finest Russian writers of the past century, whose eyewitness reports from the front form a historical source unparalleled in its immediacy, the troops’ behaviour now changed. Many began to act as imperial conquerors, seizing ...

Good Day, Comrade Shtrum

John Lanchester: Vasily Grossman’s Masterpiece, 18 October 2007

Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Vintage, 864 pp., £9.99, October 2006, 0 09 950616 5
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... writers, not least those who write in a personal voice which is in itself a variety of pastiche. Vasily Grossman’s masterpiece Life and Fate is fascinating for many reasons, and one of them is the way that it is both a pastiche and a personal statement; a conscious, cold-blooded attempt to sum up everything ...

Shockers

Jeremy Treglown, 6 August 1992

Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... trying. Peter Porter, Martin Amis, the American cartoonist Art Spiegelman and the Soviet dissident Vasily Grossman are among the many who have done so for the Holocaust although none was ever an inmate of the camps. Of the four, Grossman came closest: born in 1905, a Jew, he spent the war as a reporter, and wrote what ...

Off the record

John Bayley, 19 September 1985

Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Collins, 880 pp., £15, September 1985, 0 00 261454 5
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... presented in big-scale socialist realist novels, good and bad, from Sholokhov’s Quiet Don to Grossman’s Life and Fate. Grossman’s method is indeed socialist realism, used with a wholly Tolstoyan truth and honesty. This itself makes a disturbing, an explosive mixture. But where creating individuals is ...

Glasnost

John Barber, 29 October 1987

Socialism, Peace and Democracy: Writings, Speeches and Reports 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Zwan, 210 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 1 85305 011 3
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Gorbachev 
by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 314 pp., £5.95, May 1987, 0 631 15880 4
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The Sixth Continent: Russia and Mikhail Gorbachov 
by Mark Frankland.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £12.95, June 1987, 0 241 12122 1
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Shadows and Whispers: Power Politics inside the Kremlin from Brezhnev to Gorbachev 
by Dusko Doder.
Harrap, 349 pp., £12.95, July 1987, 0 245 54577 8
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Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine 
by Angus Roxburgh.
Gollancz, 285 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 575 03734 2
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Utopia in Power: A History of the USSR from 1917 to the Present 
by Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich.
Hutchinson, 877 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 09 155620 1
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... as Nikolai Gumilyev, Georgy Ivanov, Vladislav Khodosevich, and prose works by Mikhail Bulgakov, Vasily Grossman, Anatoly Platonov and Yevgeny Zamyatin. Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, for publishing which abroad he was expelled from the Writers’ Union in 1958, is due to appear next year; and publication of some of Nabokov’s novels has been promised. Of ...

Hitler’s Teeth

Neal Ascherson: Berlin 1945, 28 November 2002

Berlin: The Downfall, 1945 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 490 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88695 5
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... Russian archives. Two personal narratives stand out. The first is the notebooks of the novelist Vasily Grossman, found by Beevor in the Russian State Archive for Literature. A great writer moving forward with the armies put down unsparingly what he saw and heard: burning towns collapsing on drunken soldiery, raped girls with battered faces, a mighty ...

Dun-Coloured Dust

Thomas de Waal: Russia’s war, 15 July 1999

Russia's War 
by Richard Overy.
Penguin, 416 pp., £8.99, July 1999, 0 14 027169 4
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Stalingrad 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 512 pp., £12.99, May 1999, 0 14 024985 0
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... At the heart of Vasily Grossman’s great novel of the Second World War, Life and Fate, is an unforgettable depiction of a house cut off from the frontline in Stalingrad. A group of soldiers and civilians are stranded in no man’s land, linked to their comrades-in-arms only by a narrow underground passageway and forced to fight off an onslaught on three sides ...

Make them go away

Neal Ascherson: Grossman’s Failure, 3 February 2011

To the End of the Land 
by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen.
Cape, 577 pp., £18.99, September 2010, 978 0 224 08999 9
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... blurb hyperbole with a wince. But this fanfare has been on a Hollywood Bowl scale that does Grossman, who has proved himself in the past to be a wise and talented writer, no favours at all. ‘To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human ...
Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Hogarth, 528 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 0 7012 0751 5
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Trust Me 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 249 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 394 55833 2
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Her Story: A Novel 
by Dan Jacobson.
Deutsch, 142 pp., £8.95, August 1987, 0 233 98116 0
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... ploy as well as a Biblical image to reveal a state of bereavement, and the simple way in which Vasily Grossman did the same thing in his novel about the Russian war, Life and Fate. Jacobson’s approach in Her Story is much closer to the latter, in spite of the way in which he sets up his situation. It remains heartbreakingly ...
Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia 
by Orlando Figes.
Allen Lane, 729 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 7139 9517 3
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... of Jewish origin in jeopardy, including some very eminent figures. In Life and Fate (1980), Vasily Grossman, who had won fame as a war correspondent, depicted the Soviet and Nazi regimes as parallel; the book was first published in Switzerland more than twenty years after his death. The central theme of Dr Zhivago (1957), the manuscript of which ...

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