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Life and Fate (Stalingrad #2)

4.45 of 5 stars 4.45  ·  rating details  ·  3,080 ratings  ·  380 reviews
At the centre of this novel, overshadowing the lives of each of its huge cast of characters, stands the Battle of Stalingrad. The novel depicts a world torn apart by war and by ideological tyranny, whether that tyranny be Nazism or Stalinism. The author's other novels include Forever Flowing.
Paperback, 880 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1959)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 02, 2013 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: William Beavers
I have to use the “M” word for this panoramic portrayal of the Soviet experience of World War 2—masterpiece. I was moved and uplifted, enlightened and devastated, and ultimately made into a better person wit more empathy and understanding of the human condition.

This is an insider’s view, as is made clear by the wonderful background provided by the translator, Robert Chandler. Grossman was a Ukrainian Jew who studied chemistry in his youth, became a novelist with the support of Gorky, and with t
When you consider the steps that had to be taken to smuggle this novel out of the Soviet Union, painstakingly photographed page by page on microfilm, you cannot but marvel at the determination and effort made by believers in the power of the written word to bring such important stories to light. This epic novel is, along with Victor Serge's stunning masterwork Unforgiving Years , the best fictional depiction I've read of the barbaric inhumanity of the Soviet experience in the Second World War an ...more
When I first learned that Vasily Grossman's model for this novel was War and Peace, I thought he was setting his sights astronomically--not to say unattainably--high. There are huge differences between the two books, of course. Remember Tolstoy's lovely modulated long sentences? Grossman doesn't even try to compete on that level. By contrast, his language tends toward the so-called "Soviet" realism of the day. This was a style in which many of the Party hacks also wrote. The difference between t ...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
What an astonishing book Life and Fate is; what an astonishing man Vasily Grossman must have been. I’ve already written a partial assessment of this literary masterpiece on my Ana the Imp blog, a post I headed The Grand Inquisitor, which focused on the contents of a single chapter, one I had just finished, one that literally winded me, both intellectually and emotionally. Well, now I’ve finished the whole novel and it captivated me from beginning to end; captivated me with its intensity, its ran ...more
The worst reviews, in my humble opinion, are those that begin with this sentence: I really wanted to like this book? Oh? This confounds me? Who starts to read a book that they hope they will not like? Do people really open books they hope will appall them, torture them with typos and improbable plots, confuse them with experimental mazes of style and drown them in gibberish? Isn't every book we start one we hope will be the greatest ever? What kind of twisted reader DOESN'T WANT TO LIKE A BOOK?

David Lentz
This masterpiece published by New York Review of Books Classics enters my Top 5 among novels by James Joyce (Ulysses), Proust (La Recherche du Temps Perdu), Tolstoy (War and Peace) and Gaddis (JR): it is pure genius in its epic scope. Inspired by Tolstoy's War and Peace and the siege of Russia by Napoleon, Grossman depicts the siege of Stalingrad by Hitler. Grossman narrates the epic from the perspectives of diverse players into whose lives the reader becomes immersed. The cast is vast and the R ...more
This review was constructed while drinking. Pub Guinness veered into Sierra Nevada Torpedo at home. Yo La Tengo kept pushing immediate questions: why not, why not? Why isn't Life and Fate a fucking rock star on goodreads?

Apparently such matters don't work in translation, well, unless it is Murakami or Bolano. I do find that rather akimbo, disjointed silences on germans and russians while YAs run amok. I did note that TWO of my coworkers are reading 50 Shades.

No, the novel isn't a streamlined ma
If you are interested in the history of the 20th Century, Life and Fate is a necessary read. A tapestry of World War II Russia, it weaves together story lines that take place in Stalingrad, in prison camps, on battlefields, on airfields, in big cities and small towns. The cast of characters, including imprisoned generals, political hacks, young and middle-aged lovers, Jews terrified of both the Nazis and the growing anti-Semitism in their own society, courageous old women and frightened soldiers ...more
Having read War and Peace a couple of months ago in which Tolstoy pointed out already in the mid nineteenth century the role of accident and fate in the success of military campaigns, thus underlining their futility, I wondered how any European leader could ever have embarked on another takeover knowing the outcome of Napoleon's campaigns. But of course there was WWI and WWII as if nothing had been learned about trusting Emperor style dictators driven by monstrous personal ambition; after Napole ...more
¿Cómo calificar esta novela? Mastodóntica, brutal, cruel, maravillosa, delicada, con la vida latiendo en cada una de sus páginas.
Retrato de un tiempo cruel, en el que el pálido reflejo de dos sistemas crudelísimos se enfrentan por una hegemonía violenta sobre el mundo, y en el que una multitud de personajes se enfrenta a sus miedos, sus ambiciones, sus deseos, la vida y la muerte.
De verdad, es magistral. Y cuando se conoce la historia de la publicación de la novela, se nos hace más grande todaví
In a way it's silly putting stars on a book like this - a book that was arrested, whose author never saw it published, and which is now, once again, persona non grata in Russia because Stalin is being rehabilitated. Nobody who is a Goodreads member can have had to make the decisions facing Grossman's characters, deal with the moral compromises, the equivocations, the desperate need to survive, all the while second guessing who might prevail next, who might be an ally, who should be supported and ...more
Well, I couldn't take any more of John Keay's "dynastic kaleidoscope," for the moment at least. I closed his "China: A History" after reading a paragraph on the succession of four "dynasties," i.e. claimants of the Mandate of Heaven, in northern China in the fifth or sixth century AD over the course of one year.
So what do I do? It's back to the Eastern Front of WWII - this time with Vasily Grossmann's "Life and Fate," a fully engaging novel, of which I read very few. Stalingrad - now that was a
Philippe Malzieu
Literature and poetry are part of Russian DNA. We can be astonished not to have the great Russian novel on the Second World War. However the matter exists and obviously Stalingrad. The answer is rather simple: the Stalinist purgings killed or exiled much writers. The Second World War finished the work.
When we think of the Russian literature after WWII, we have either poor socialist realistic account, or novel on Gulag. However, the great novel on this period exists , it is this one.
It was a lege
We tend to be so overwhelmed by the nineteenth century Russian novel that we tend to ignore the literature of Soviet Russia during the twentieth century. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman is one book that almost never made it out of Russia, which would have been a tragedy. It was suppressed for years and finally made it to the West in a typewritten samizdat manuscript sprinkled with lacunae. Grossman was at Stalingrad during the siege and knew many of the Russian military officers, including Gene ...more
Raül De Tena
Uno de mis profesores de cine decía que en toda película cualquier plano, cualquier escena, cualquier imagen, cualquier diálogo ha de estar plenamente justificado. No es que hablara de despojar la narración hasta el esqueleto. Más bien criticaba esa tendencia de algunos autores a incluir en sus obras elementos "porque sí", "porque queda bien", "porque me apetece"... Sin tener en cuenta que estas elecciones a veces no suman, sino que restan.

¿A qué viene toda esa parrafada al hablar de Vida y dest
You know a novel is special when it has an eight page character legend at the back filled with names you cannot pronounce and still manages to keep you intetrested for the entire 900 pages. While reading this you get the feeling that you are holding something special; reading a piece of incredible history that made it to print and into my hands only by several miracles. The courage to write this novel under Soviet control and the effort to ensure it made it's way out of Soviet Russia at some poi ...more
Justin Evans

Dear self,

what is the most that you've ever done to get your words published? I know you're sometimes forced to edit things into shape, and that you find that a little annoying, because honestly, if these fools don't recognize your genius, do they deserve to have your name so close to theirs? But really, if you want to publish x, you can always throw it on goodreads or into a series of facebook posts and at least a few people will read it.

So, what right do you have to criticize this book, wr
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
'Human groupings have one main purpose: to assert everyone's right to be different, to be special, to think, feel and live in his or her own way. People join together in order to win or defend this right. But this is where a terrible, fateful error is born: the belief that these groupings in the name of a race, a God, a party or a State are the very purpose of life and not simply a means to an end. No! The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his mode ...more
Review posted originally on my blog:

I have to brag about this book I just read.

It is called Life and Fate, and it's by Vasily Grossman. It is 857 pages. I read it in about 8 days, despite being extra-busy at work.

That's the bragging part. From here on out, I will make this post not about me.

This book is amazing. It is not that famous - it is certainly not as famous as Crime and Punishment or War and Peace, both similarly huge tomes - one of which (the f
Chuck LoPresti
Mothers and Sons or the literary equal to Shostakovich's 8th, Grossman's weighty book was the culmination of his life and life's efforts. Ultimately a threnody just like the 8th, Grossman unfurls a cast of 150 characters that slowly come into focus, some more so than others, then recede again into non-life. Parts philosophy, parts historical journalism and parts autobiography, Grossman's Life and Fate is the most important document of Soviet life and death during WWII and it is easy to see why i ...more
A volume that is hard not to contrast with Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones in that it describes the Stalingrad campaign from the Russian rather than German point of view, follows the professional and domestic crises of a range of characters well behind the front line rather than the peregrinations of a single anti-Übermensch and sticks to realism in preference to literary and psychological squigglings.

It's a much earlier novel of course and one that was banned in its time - wholly unsurpris
Chiedo il permesso a Piperitapitta di utilizzare la sua immagine - efficacissima - del foro nel vetro e della ramificazione delle fratture.

Quanto lontano arrivano quelle crepe e quanto grande è il vetro del "foro - Stalingrado" ?

Arrivano di sicuro fino a noi e fino ad oggi, che ne siamo consapevoli o no.

Buona parte della grandezza di Vita e Destino consiste nel farci comprendere in maniera profonda e definitiva l'importanza storica della vittoria di Stalingrado per le sorti della seconda guerra,
David Williams
Prepare for a difficult read, in every sense of the word. Grossman’s novel, never published in his lifetime, is huge and sprawling, with a overloaded cast list (17 pages in my Kindle edition) of Russians and Germans with confusing, exchangable and sometimes maddeningly similar names, and a plot like an untidy ball of twine with strands appearing out of knots and disappearing into ravels. And searingly difficult on the emotions, tortured most in the hauntingly detailed death-camp scenes, but pric ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Sera rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian lit fans who are interested in WWII
Recommended to Sera by: Fil
I was somewhere between 4.5 and 5 stars on this one, but as I wrote this review, I realized that I was closer to 5 stars than I had originally believed.

Grossman's Life and Fate is an excellent book that features many aspects of WWII ranging from the Battle of Stalingrad, to Stalin's view of science, to the gas chambers that the Nazis had created. The first half of the book offers a series of vignettes that come together in the second half of the book, where the reader has the opportunity to rea
I’ve read a lot of memorable fiction and non-fiction about World War II and the Holocaust starting at age fifteen when Exodus, by Leon Uris, was released. Later, I read the inimitable graphic novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman. And, more recently, the brilliant historic work by Timothy Synder Blood Lands. There’s also the impossible to put down story of how over 300 inmates escaped from Sobibor, the smallest of the Nazi extermination camps, by Richard Rashke, who interviewed eighteen of the survivors ...more
Mikey B.
This novel – at close to 900 pages – has some very poignant passages on both Nazi and Soviet atrocities of crimes against humanity. These are stunning and soulful.

Unfortunately I felt the book was marred by lengthy sections concerning Viktor Shtrum, his wife Lyudmila and his work cohort Sokolov. This was an extended examination of work-persecution and paranoia Soviet-Stalinist style. It became tedious and repetitive (reminding me of “Waiting for Godot”) particularly in Parts II and III.

I found t
John Gaynard
In this masterpiece Grossman presents the Soviet and Russian experience through the filter of his own life, both the bravery he displayed and the moments of weakness, such as when he accepted to accuse colleagues of imaginary crimes in a letter of denunciation. The chapters move between the heroic defense of Stalingrad; the German prisoner of war camps in which old Bolsheviks mull over what went wrong up to and including the Stalinist show trials of 1937, and Soviet POWs are continually encourag ...more
Così avrebbe detto Tolstoj se avesse potuto leggere VITA E DESTINO.

Da anni, molti, non leggevo un libro così.
Così bello, così denso, così esigente, così ricco. Arrivato a metà, ho istintivamente rallentato, per non finirlo troppo presto, per gustarlo a fondo, distillarlo. Quando l’ho chiuso per l’ultima volta, ho deciso di tenerlo ancora sul comodino, di non metterlo subito via sullo scaffale, di non separarmene bruscamente e abituarmi con calma al silenzio che c
Megan Baxter
This is a huge sprawling novel, centred around the battle of Stalingrad, but weaving in and out and incorporating the Holocaust, the Soviet detention centres, Soviet science under Stalin, life at the front, life at home, and the nature of freedom and humanity. (And I found Grossman's musings on the latter two more readable than Tolstoy's long philosophical digressions, to be perfectly honest.)

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enfor
Ellyn Oaksmith
Although this book is supposed to be one of the great masterpieces of Russian literature, ranking up there with War and Peace, (one of my favorite books,) I could not for the life of me follow this book with any interest. I had a hard time keeping all the Russian names straight and about a third of the way gave up because I honestly didn't care much about any of the people. It was hopeless, depressing and a hard slog. During the time I was reading it I was suffering from insomnia so my brain was ...more
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русс: Василий Гроссман

Born Iosif Solomonovich Grossman into an emancipated Jewish family, he did not receive a traditional Jewish education. A Russian nanny turned his name Yossya into Russian Vasya (a diminutive of Vasily), which was accepted by the whole family. His father had social-democratic convictions and joined the Mensheviks. Young Vasily Grossman idealistically supported the Russian Revo
More about Vasily Grossman...
A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army Forever Flowing The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays An Armenian Sketchbook L'inferno di Treblinka

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“Good men and bad men alike are capable of weakness. The difference is simply that a bad man will be proud all his life of one good deed - while an honest man is hardly aware of his good acts, but remembers a single sin for years on end.” 64 likes
“I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never by conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.” 41 likes
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