Translated into English for the first time, this is a fearless epic from one of the great writers of the twentieth century
Vasily Grossman was born in 1905. In 1941 he became a correspondent for the Red Army newspaper, Red Star, reporting on the defence of Stalingrad, the fall of Berlin and the consequences of the Holocaust, work collected in A Writer at War. Life and Fate, his masterpiece, was considered a threat to the totalitarian regime, and Grossman was told that there was no chance of it being published for another 200 years. Grossman began Everything Flows in 1955 and was still working on it during his last days in hospital in September 1964.
Grossman's brilliant and courageous novel, written between 1955 and 1963, is unexpectedly empathetic toward perpetrators of varying degrees of, and silent accomplices to, the atrocities committed against large segments of the Soviet population (especially kulaks and Jews) during the Stalin years. Grossman (Life and Fate) tells the story of one man's attempt to reintegrate himself into society following several decades in the gulag. The novel is ultimately an homage to Russian women, whom the narrator claims suffer much more than men in Russian society. After he becomes intimate with his landlady, the narrator finds solace in her honest rendering of how she survived her own trials. A small play, in which the narrator's cousin attempts to justify before a judge signing a petition against colleagues, is jarringly dropped into the narrative, and a good portion of the second half reads more like a political treatise, condemning Lenin and, to a lesser extent, Stalin. VERDICT For anyone interested in the time portrayed, this is a rewarding novel despite some drawbacks. Just as we find slim optimism as Beckett's characters continue to exist in spite of everything, readers will find hope in the narrator's uncommon capacity to forgive and accept.-Kurt H. Cumiskey, Duke Univ. Libs., Durham, NC Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Few novels confront human suffering on as massive a scale as this one. After his release into post-Stalinist Russia, Ivan Grigoryevich finds that the 30 years he spent in Stalin's forced labor camps have wreaked terrible changes in himself and in Soviet society. He goes first to his cousin's Moscow apartment, but he and his wife are preoccupied with petty successes secured by cooperation with a state-sanctioned campaign of anti-Semitism. Ivan then travels to Leningrad, where he finds work in a metal shop and rents a room from a widow who falls in love with him and shares stories from her past (most notably the forced collectivization of Ukrainian farms), providing a counterbalance to Ivan's experiences in Siberia. Suffering is everywhere, but Grossman finds no glory or redemption in it, and just when you think things can't get bleaker, he offers up a new vignette that sinks deeper into misery, though there is a glimmer of hope toward the end. The prose is rough in spots, but Grossman's individual by individual portrayal of anguish gives readers a heartrending glimpse of the incomprehensible. (Nov.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"As eloquent a memorial to the anonymous little man in the
Stalinist state as Dr Zhivago is to the artistic spirit in
post-Czarist Russia and The First Circle to the scientific
intelligentsia" * New York Times *
"Vasily Grossman is the Tolstoy of the USSR" * Martin Amis *
"Possibly the greatest chronicler of the second world war" * Guardian *
"Only Dante, in his account of Ugolino and his sons starving to death in a locked tower, has written of death from hunger with equal power" -- Robert Chandler * London Review of Books *
"Supplies a wealth of information about the social context and Soviet terminology" -- Christopher Taylor * Guardian *