A Writer at War: A Soviet Journalist with the Red Army, 1941-1945
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A Writer at War: A Soviet Journalist with the Red Army, 1941-1945

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,192 ratings  ·  81 reviews
When the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, Vasily Grossman became a special correspondent for the Red Star, the Soviet Army's newspaper, and reported from the frontlines of the war. A Writer at War depicts in vivid detail the crushing conditions on the Eastern Front, and the lives and deaths of soldiers and civilians alike. Witnessing some of the most savage fighting of the...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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Grossman, the author of the magnificent Life and Fate, took notes tirelessly as he covered the Second World War for Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) and was, despite Soviet censors, regarded as one of the war’s best journalists. His coverage of the siege of Stalingrad is powerful and gritty and focused on the individual solider, officer, resident. His article on Treblinka was one of the first reports on Hitler’s death camps published in any language. His insistence on reporting on the Holocaust and do...more
it was a really enjoyable read about how a sensible, non-political journalist got by about Stalingrad, the great tank battle of Kursk, and the Siege of Berlin.
I really liked he made interviews with the simple soldiers as with the hig ranked officials and while the nightmares of war has raged with full force, he could remain human -
which is the hardest thing to do.
If you want to read a detailled but human writing about war, soldiers this book is highly recommended.
Mickey Mantle
A magnificent book.
Spellbinding.....a humanistic account of a brutal war...from Moscow through Stalingrad, Kursk, Treblinka, Warsaw and on to Berlin.
Interviews with the regular soldier on to Generals and all conducted at the front.
Absolutely fabulous.
Steve Coscia
Unique WWII insight from a Russian perspective. Very honest and detailed accounts of the war's great battles in the east. Grossman's courage and honesty earned the respect of both foot soldiers and military leaders. Grossman's was able to capture the essence of events because he didn't write notes while speaking with soldiers, he just listened intently and allowed the soldiers to vent. Then later, he would write all the details in his notebooks. His notebook entries are very honest - the good, t...more
Erwin Maack
"Muitos erros foram cometidos no mundo, erros que hoje, parece, nem um criança cometeria. Que caminhos tortuosos, obtusos, estreitos, impraticáveis, caminhos que a desviavam para longe, escolheu a humanidade, na ânsia de atingir a verdade eterna, quando diante dela se descortinava uma estrada ampla e reta como o caminho que leva ao santuário magnífico designado para a morada do rei! Era um caminho mais
largo e mais suntuoso que todos os outros caminhos, inundado de sol e iluminado por fogos a no...more
Sarah Payok
This is hands-down one of the best nonfiction books I've read. Grossman was a journalist assigned in Stalin's army during World War II, and he spent almost the entire war at the front. This includes being present for nearly the entire battle for Stalingrad, being one of the first people at Treblinka after its liberation, and arriving in Berlin shortly before the German authorities surrendered. Grossman chronicles his observations, with a particular focus on the individual experiences. The result...more
Kiera Healy
This is an excellent account of the frontline Red Army experience during WW2. Vasily Grossman, a Jewish Soviet, became a war correspondent when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and his writings move from the seemingly hopeless time of 1941 through to the turning point of Stalingrad, and then the march westward until the fall of Berlin.

This collection of notes - some articles, some letters, some private jottings, mostly unedited by propagandists and untouched by censors - paints a remarkable...more
Nancy Burns
Every book on Goodreads written by Vasily Grossman has a score of 4,5 stars.
I've read "An Armenian Sketchbook" and now "Writer at War".
If you haven't read this great Russian writer....you are missing out on a great experience.

Here is my review:
It's not often that you get a man who is a primary source AND knows how to write, and therein lies the importance of this book. Add to that the fact that this comes from the Soviet side, and also that Grossman really had an eye for the small, humane details, and you get a great book.

Of course, since Grossman's contributions come from his notebooks, just pasting those notes together would not qualify the result for a successful book. And this is where Antony Beevor does a great job in editing, ex...more
Nate H.
Raw, inspired and ethically hightening. Wonderful read for any interested in the subject. Brings WWII to life right now.
Christopher Chambers
A real person emerges from this selection of his Red Star writings.

It is occasionally fragmented, especially as one tends to read with the narrative of the war in mind. Grossman wasn't always at the front and then not always at the crux, but it is astonishing how much of a continent-wide struggle he personally witnessed. Some of the gaps are affecting in themselves; there's no doubt that his mental health suffered but equally, that he made no accommodation for it given the pain surrounding him.

Vasily Grossman wrote one of my favourite novels, Life and Fate. It is astounding that the novel was only published because a friend had a copy of the manuscript, which was smuggled into Switzerland years later. Grossman died thinking that his magnificent book would be suppressed forever. In 'A Writer At War' the reader finds the seeds of Life and Fate, as Grossman reported from the Eastern Front throughout the war. He observed the disastrous Soviet losses of 1941, the Battle of Stalingrad, the...more
Czarny Pies
Aug 09, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII history buffs
Recommended to Czarny by: My Mother in law who witnessed the Eastern Front first hand
Bravo to Antony Beevor for producing this compilation of Vasily Grossman's war reporting. Beevor made extensive use of Grossman's published and unpublished writing in his book "Stalingrad" which won three major history prizes. In an act of great professional courtesy, Beevor created this excellent volume so as to draw the public's attention to Vasily Grossman who deservers to be much better known than he is.

Grossman was the senior Russian journalist covering at the front during WWII. He was the...more
This was more of an intro to the eastern front than a memoir or biography of a soviet-era journalist during WW2, which is what I was expecting. While some of his articles were excerpted, I think I would have liked more to personalize the story better. Even so, if you know nothing of WW2 from the Russian side, this is a great introduction to the whole mess. It touches on alot - from the internal military political squabbles, to Communist Party debates and policies, to ethnic and national tensions...more
Amanda McCrina
Wavered on the star rating for this one, but I'll go with four stars, since it was the reading experience and not the book itself I had trouble with. I read it as an ebook, and it just didn't translate well to electronic format: too many photos and maps, and long stretches of italic text that I found strenuous to read. (The print edition sets these off as block-quotes, which I'd have much preferred.)

It's a fascinating read. The editors do a remarkable job taking the raw material and streamlining...more
Arnoldo Garcia
I read "A Writer at War" when it came out, when I was trying to gulp down anything I could get my eyes on about war. I was and continue writing almost daily about the wars' impact on langauges, human senses, relationships between humans and humans and humans and the natural world.

NOTES: I am re-reading "a Writer at War" as I continue compiling a set of writings that document the U.S. wars against Iraq and and their impacts here, from afar, a poetics of PTDS of sorts to find our way out this huma...more
Apr 14, 2013 Diane rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane by: WWII History Buffs
I suspect as time passes and I reflect more about the information in this book, I'll think it deserves a higher rating. Much of the time I stuggled with the Russian and German names, military terminolgy, and geography, which sent me repeatedly looking on the internet to keep from being completely lost. But just when I thought about giving the book up, I'd read something so interesting about the people who lived through WWII on the eastern front that I knew I had to continue reading the book. Vas...more
Bob Schmitz
Vasily Grossman was the Ernie Pyle of the Russian army in WWII. He worked for newspaper The Red Star, and traveled with the Red Army from the start of the war to Berlin. This book is his field notes interspersed with broad descriptions of what was going on during the war. It is a fascinating glimpse into the day to day happenings on the Eastern Front.

Miscellaneous notes:
- There was lots of singing and music at the front with concerts, gramophones, radios etc.
- Due to Stalin's purges in the Ukra...more
Vasily Grossman is one of the greatest writers of the Twentieth Century and his masterwork, Life and Fate may be the greatest novel of that century. This book puts Grossman in his historical context in a useful way. It shows Grossman as a committed anti-fascist who rushed to join up to fight the barbaric Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. It also portrays him as essentially a believer in socialism, but one who longed for a fresh start away from the horrors of the Stalinist purges. In the battle...more
Ray Hartley
Grossman was a journalist on the Russian military's Red Star journal as the titanic battle between Hitler and Stalin on the eastern front consumed more than ten million lives during the Second World War. He was allowed the freedom to report on the experiences of soldiers at the front - a freedom that would be removed when the war ended and Grossman found himself an enemy of Stalin's security state.
This journal contains his writings full of horror and hope. His document of the greatest military e...more
When the German army sped across the Soviet border in June 1941 in a double-cross that left the more-than-adequately forewarned Stalin shocked and a few of his most prominent generals conveniently scapegoated and summarily shot, Vasily Grossman, too, was caught unawares. The Ukrainian novelist was fat, brainy, and Jewish, credentials that were more "counter" than "revolutionary" and earned him a nyet at the nearest recruiting station. He was, it turns out, fortunate just to have had the opportun...more
Marcos Olmos
Vasili Grossman fue un periodista durante la WWII que anoto todas sus cronicas y entrevistas en libros de notas. Su capacidad para hacer hablar a sus entrevistados y su objetividad, dentro de un periodo altamente politizado, hicieron que el contenido de esas notas fuera peligroso para el autor. Decadas despues esas notas fueron rescatadas y editadas en esta edición de lujo.
Esta crónica de la guerra esta formada por cientos de historias, algunas de una página y otras de varias, que cautivan por l...more
i don't read a lot of history. but after reading a couple of novels that took place in Russia during The Great Patriotic War - world war 2 in other words - i wanted to learn a little more about it. this book is not overly long -compared to many historical tomes- but i still wondered if i would get through it. turned out to be far easier then i imagined. as a journalist during the war, Grossman had to follow party lines, but he kept copious notes that were smuggled out of the country and -after s...more
Jake M.
If scarcity increase value, Vasily Grossman's intimate accounts of war on the WWII's eastern front is invaluable to understanding the month to month experiences of the Soviet army. This book is chronologically structured from initial the Nazi hammer blows into Russia to the flaming inferno of Berlin. The editor is competent at giving context and synthesis between notebook entries, but Grossman is stellar at giving his accounts without framing his experiences through a Stalinist lens. Like so man...more
Joe Ervin
I thought this was a very interesting book. The format was unexpected; I was expecting basically Grossman's narrative, but it was actually Antony Beevor serving as a guide through Grossman's notes with excerpts liberally included. There are a number of powerful stories, such as the Red Army commander who discovered his family had been slaughtered by seeing their bodies in a photograph, or Grossman's understated account of escaping the Wehrmacht at Orel. Highly recommend this book to anyone inter...more
David Hill
Goodreads lists Grossman as the author of this book, but that's not really true. Antony Beever wrote it. He went through Grossman's notebooks from the war, mixed in some ling excerpts from his Red Star articles and added some connecting text that tells us where Grossman was and what was going on around him.

Grossman was politically naive. He made many notes that, if found, could have put him in the Gulag or the grave. He seemed to think that when the Nazis were defeated, Stalinism would grow soft...more
Vasily Grossman was a Russian Jew who wrote for a Soviet Military newspaper during World War II. He had a high regard for the common soldier and was perhaps a Russian Ernie Pyle. There is more mention is this work of the Soviet girls who took part in the defense of Russia by flying bombing and resupply missions in bi-planes. Soviet women were also front line medics, facing the same dangers as the men they were taking care of.
Grossman was disheartened by the raping and pillaging of the Russian tr...more
Amazon review:
Vasily Grossman, author of Life and Fate, was transformed by his experiences as a war correspondent. Following the shock invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Grossman volunteered for front line duty. Declared unfit for active service he was assigned to Red Star newspaper as a special correspondent. In these BBC Radio programmes, Elliot Levey reads three of Vasily Grossman's front line despatches. The first is a heroic and intimate portrait of a sniper, the second deals with t...more
I took a while to become comfortable with the format of this biography. It consists of excerpts from Grossman's notebooks, newspaper articles, and few from his novels. At first it seemed disjointed, but the strength of Grossman's description of the war grew as his time in it increased, and the editors managing of the material improved (or I became accustomed to it).

The work covers the beginning of the German invasion, to the capture of Berlin. His descriptions of Stalingrad, liberated concentra...more
John Grinstead
Antony Beevor provides editorial commentary on one of the major sources for his Stalingrad account from Grossman, a Russian Jew accredited to the Red Star newspaper. Grossman provides a candid view on not only the tremendous sacrifice of the Red Army and the astonishing determination of the Russian soldier but the darker side of the propaganda war, his frustration with the editing of his copy, the atrocities committed by both sides, the horrors of Treblinka and the Soviet reaction to the Holocau...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
More about Vasily Grossman...
Life and Fate Forever Flowing The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays An Armenian Sketchbook L'inferno di Treblinka

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“We leafed through a series of the [1941 Soviet] Front newspaper. I came across the following phrase in a leading article: 'The much-battered enemy continued his cowardly advance.” 4 likes
“No one could understand; nor could she explain it herself. This senseless kindness is condemned in the fable about the pilgrim who warmed a snake in his boson. It is the kindness that has mercy on a tarantula that has bitten a child. A mad, blind kindness. People enjoy looking in stories and fables for examples of the danger of this kind of senseless kindness. But one shouldn't be afraid of it. One might just as well be afraid of a freshwater fish carried out by chance into the salty ocean. The harm from time to time occasioned a society, class, race or State by this senseless kindness fades away in the light that emanates from those who are endowed with it. This kindness, this stupid kindness, is what is most truly human in a human being. It is what sets man apart, the highest achievement of his soul. No it says, life is not evil.” 1 likes
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