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Life and Fate (Stalingrad #2)

4.45 of 5 stars 4.45  ·  rating details  ·  3,585 ratings  ·  432 reviews
Suppressed by the KGB, Life and Fate is a rich and vivid account of what the Second World War meant to the Soviet Union.

On its completion in 1960, Life and Fate was suppressed by the KGB. Twenty years later, the novel was smuggled out of the Soviet Union on microfilm. At the centre of this epic novel looms the battle of Stalingrad. Within a world torn apart by ideological
Paperback, 880 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by The Harvill Press (first published 1980)
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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 a ...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
A monumental novel in the Great Russian tradition which has been rightly compared with War and Peace. It focuses on the Battle of Stalingrad, but covers a Science Institute, various prison camps and a concentration camp. The list of characters is vast and the dramatis personae in my edition was well used.
Grossman was a journalist who covered the Battle of Stalingrad from the front line and his experience shows. However this is, like War and Peace, very much not just a war novel. Its scope is br
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
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
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?

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
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
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
¿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
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
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
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,
A stunning work of literature. This will go on my favourites shelf.
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
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
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
Giovanna De Sabbata
Era strano percorrere quel corridoio dritto come un fuso mentre la sua vita era così contorta, un intrico di sentieri, fossi, paludi, ruscelli, polvere della steppa e grano non trebbiato da scansare o attraversare... Il destino, invece, era lineare, dritto, fatto di corridoi e di porte...

Comincio dalla fine (tranquilli, niente spoiler): 1960. È la data posta a conclusione del romanzo, quella che ci dice in che anno questa poderosa opera è stata conclusa. È una data che attesta tutto il coraggio
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
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
Griffin Alexander
"'We were pardoned nothing...: our fools, our blockheads, our sleepy gluttons, Rasputin, our irresponsibility and our avenues of lime trees, the peasants' huts without chimneys and their bast shoes—everything was held against us.'"

What is there even left to say?
This is the first book that made me cry in as long as I can remember. Reader Response criticism is dead for a reason, but if emotional resonance through a text this sprawling and complex doesn't speak to its merits, I am unsure of what d
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
Se dovessi raccontare a qualcuno in poche parole cos'è «Vita e Destino», per spiegargli la struttura di quello che è, prima di tutto, un romanzo immenso per mole e quantità di storie e personaggi che si intrecciano, gli direi di guardare questa foto e di pensare a cosa succede quando un vetro è attraversato da una pallottola; al foro provocato dall'esplosione e a tutta quella ragnatela che immediatamente si propaga da una parte all'altra dello stesso vetro, pronta a frantumarsi e a crollare all' ...more
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
Many people have compared this book to War and Peace. Clearly, there are similarities (although set in different wars and in very different Russias). However, this book also reminded me of Heller’s Catch-22. There were comic moments (Yevgenia’s struggle with the bureaucracy in Kuibyshev over a residence permit was one in particular) and its commentary about the inefficiency of the Soviety party system parallels some of Heller’s criticisms. Grossman draws great parallels between Novikov’s experie ...more
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  • The Queue
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  • Envy
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  • Hope Against Hope
  • The Stalin Front: A Novel of World War II
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Stalingrad (2 books)
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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.” 82 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.” 50 likes
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